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Military bases preparing for this hurricane season are still reeling from the last

Tara Copp, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Weather News

WASHINGTON -- More than 150 members of the North Carolina National Guard gathered in Raleigh this month, with the damage from Hurricane Florence in 2018 still on their minds.

On a 40-foot map of the state, they began moving North Carolina's guard units around like chess pieces, to set the order of battle for the next major storm.

"We go through the timetable of a major hurricane hitting," said North Carolina National Guard spokesman Army Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo. The units looked at preparedness five days out. Then two days out. Then landfall, to see "what will be mobilized, what we lack in capability" and what worked last time, he said.

Last year's hurricanes were particularly destructive for some of the military's most critical bases. In response, active, reserve and National Guard forces have looked at lessons learned to better prepare for this year's hurricane season, which starts June 1, even as they wait for federal funding to fix all the damage from last year.

As part of its review, the North Carolina National Guard also looked for capability gaps. This year there is an obvious one. Almost one-third of North Carolina's 12,000-strong National Guard will not be on hand to respond to a storm because a major component, the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, is on standby to deploy overseas. Instead, North Carolina has set agreements with other states to fill in guard personnel if needed, DeVivo said.

North Carolina units that participated in the May exercise were Charlotte-based 145th Air National Guard and 130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade; Greensboro-based 113th Sustainment Brigade; Fayetteville's 139th Regional Training Brigade; and Raleigh's 60th Troop Command and 449th Aviation Brigade.

 

In Florida, last year's Category 5 Hurricane Michael directly hit Tyndall Air Force Base, damaging more than 700 buildings and forcing the relocation of 11,000 personnel and 46 aircraft. Rebuilding efforts are estimated to cost more than $4.7 billion.

At Tyndall, many buildings remain as damaged as they were after last year's storm, and any new repairs ceased as of May 1 due to budget disagreements between the White House and Congress. Before funds ran out, the Air Force had prioritized addressing "mold removal, temporary roofs, replacing HVAC systems and other life, health, and safety issues" at critical facilities.

It also has tried to fortify those repairs so the buildings can weather this year's storm season and last through base reconstruction, which is expected to take between three to five years.

The Air Force has also looked closely at lessons learned.

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