3740264 Naval Air Station Key West evacuates, while some stay behind

Sailors and civilians prepare for evacuation orders ahead of Major Hurricane Irma by filling up their cars at Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West’s Boca Chica Field Navy Exchange Gas Station. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cody R. Babin/Released)

By Jarid Watson

Thousands are evacuating Naval Air Station Key West as Irma, a category 5 hurricane barrels toward Florida with 180 mile-per-hour winds.

But not everyone is leaving.

Navy Region Southeast public affairs officer Mr. Bill Dougherty says approximately 60 Navy personnel will stay behind to maintain essential functions.

“There is constant contact. We do regular communications with them every hour to make sure everything’s okay through the entire time that the storm comes through,” said Dougherty. “And then once the storm is done, you get those initial damage assessments and figure out what the installation needs. And we here at [Navy Region Southeast] are here to facilitate that support to them.”

Dougherty has been a busy man at Navy Region Southeast headquarters, located at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, making sure coordination and communication efforts continue as Irma moves closer to Florida’s Naval installations.

“The key thing that we’re trying to do is get messages out to our personnel and their family members to make sure that they’re taking the proper preparations in advance of this storm…review their hurricane evacuation plan, make sure they have their hurricane kits prepared and ready, that they know where they’re going, that they have any important papers, or medications, things like that.”

About 18 installations fall under Navy Region Southeast’s command. Many of which may be affected one way or another by the hurricane. Dougherty is hopeful that everyone has prepared and will be safe.

“Particularly those folks that are moving out of Key West right now that are moving north that they filled their tanks and can get far enough north to where there are some open gas stations because right now I’m hearing in South Florida, there are gas stations running out of gas.

While more evacuations may be on the way, Dougherty suggests anyone in Irma’s path download the Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System cell phone app. The app (Android, iOS) allows for easy accountability tracking.

“Let’s say you have something unfortunate happen – your home is damaged or you need some kind of assistance. You can go on that cell phone app and complete a needs assessment, and a navy counselor will reach out to you and contact you and your family, and provide assistance.”

Connect: @JaridWatson | Jarid@ConnectingVets.com

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