Naval Station Mayport sends ships to sea ahead of Hurricane Irma

Most ships to leave port since Hurricane Floyd in 1999

MAYPORT, Fla. – The U.S. Navy will be sending ships from Naval Station Mayport out to sea ahead of Hurricane Irma. Another three will be moved to safe locations.

It's the biggest sortie of ships from Mayport ahead of a hurricane since 1999. In September of that year, the carrier JFK and 12 other ships left the base ahead of Hurricane Floyd.

Last year, three ships left ahead of Hurricane Matthew. 

The following ships are heading to sea Wednesday: USS Shamal (PC 13), USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) and USCG Tahoma (WPG 80).

USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), USS Farragut (DDG 99) and USS Lassen (DDG 82) are scheduled to depart Thursday.

USS Hue City (CG 66), USS Tornado (PC 14) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) will be moved to a safe haven location and made ready for heavy weather.

USS Detroit (LCS 7) and USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) will both remain in port and will be heavy weather moored.

The decision to sortie is based on concerns for the safety of sailors and preservation of the ships and associated equipment, Mayport officials said in a news release.

Navy vessels can remain safe at sea by maneuvering to avoid storms altogether. Additionally, having ships underway ensures they are ready to respond to any national tasking if required.

"Mayport Jacksonville in general is not a safe harbor for any vessel when we have a high wind, so we need to get them out of the basin. At sea is a better place for them to be," said Steve Millican, emergency manager for Naval Station Mayport.

Plans are also in the works at Naval Station Mayport to make sure that all personnel and base resources are safe as Irma approaches.

Emergency management meetings are ongoing. Last year during Matthew, the base closed to all nonessential personnel. Any order to evacuate the base would come from the commanding officer. Sailors were assured they would still be paid if they were sent off base.

Officials urge the sailors to communicate with their family members about plans and preparations.

Family members are urged to stay in contact with their command ombudsman, as well as fleet and Family Support Services for any assistance they need or questions they have before, during or after the storm.

About the Authors:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.