JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of sailors forced to evacuate due to Hurricane Irma are now back to work as local bases have now reopened.
Naval Station Mayport returned to operational status Thursday without significant damage to base facilities. The base has also opened an Emergency Family Assistance Center to help sailors and their families recover from the storm.
The EFAC has representatives from legal, Navy and Marine Corps Relief, Red Cross, Housing and Personnel Support Detachment available for assistance. Child care will be provided for those seeking help at the EFAC.
The center also offers things such as counseling, if people need someone to talk to about the stress of the storm; legal advice for insurance claims; and help with pay. There's plenty of people there to help sailors with what they need.
Inside the Fleet and Family Support Center, staff members were on hand all day Thursday helping answer questions of sailors returning to the base.
"Sometimes, they just need somebody to talk to give them advice on how to handle the emergency," said Bill Kennedy, with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.
Before the storm hit, Kennedy said, the organization gave out more than $150,000 to help 275 sailors and their families with evacuation costs. He knows some may have damage to homes, but said more money is available, interest free, to help them get by.
"We can provide basic needs so they can have somewhere to live," Kennedy said. "But we won't know that until they get into the next week or so to find out if they lost a lot of stuff."
During the storm, Mayport saw a 5-foot storm surge, nearly 8 inches of rain and wind gusts that topped 80 miles per hour. That’s why the base has a legal team ready to assist with any insurance or government claims sailors may have.
"They're the most important part of our service and we want to make sure they are taken care of," said United States Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Kelne.
That's why the base has had an ombudsman available at all times keeping families updated on their sailors and their properties before, during and after the storm.
The EFAC is located at the Fleet and Family Support Center at the Naval Station Mayport in building one and will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, contact the Fleet and Family Support Center at -904-270-6600.