U.S. Navy Bases Prepare for Irene

As Hurricane Irene churns toward Northeast, U.S. Navy bases in the tri-state area began preparations to avoid a potentially catastrophic event.

“The base is currently increasing its condition of readiness to a level that anticipates the possibility of destructive winds within the next 48 hours,” said Chris Zendan, public affairs officer at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.

Four nuclear submarines were expected to “possibly leave the port within the next 24 hours,” according to Zendan. That would allow the submarines enough time to reach deep water and remain safely submerged before the onset of high winds and heavy seas that will accompany Irene.

Additionally, the base began preparing for installation of flood gates and the removal of small crafts and barges.

Hurricane Irene was a Category 3 storm on Thursday, and was expected to hit the North Carolina coast by Saturday morning and  impact the New York City region on Sunday.

In Colts Neck, N.J., at Naval Weapons Station Earle, a floating dock and fenders had been pulled out of the water. It is a measure common for a waterfront complex, such as theirs in Sandy Hook Bay, when expecting a storm of this magnitude, spokesman Mike Brady said. Ships that usually come to Earle to load various types of missiles and bombs as they get ready for deployments around the world were not docked there at the moment, which was a fortunate occurrence, Brady noted.

By Thursday, all Second Fleet Navy ships were ordered out of port at Hampton Roads, Virginia, home to the world’s largest naval base, and to sea in order to stay out of the hurricane’s way. Nine ships were already at sea, and 27 got underway on Thursday.

“The forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge is too great to keep the ships in port,” said Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, commander of the Second Fleet, in a statement. “Having the ships underway also makes them ready and available to respond to any national tasking, including any needed disaster response efforts in the local area after the storm has passed.”