Mayport prepares for Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane exercises ensure personnel ready if storm hits coast

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – The hurricane season begins in three weeks, and while the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season isn't expected to be overly busy, military personnel at Naval Station Mayport are already preparing for any eventuality that might affect the stretch of coastline along Northeast Florida.

Mayport personnel are currently conducting hurricane exercises, dubbed "HurrEx," over the next two weeks.

"We really want to push the message of preparing now instead of waiting until the day of the storm or the days before the storm,” said Amie McKague, of the Fleet and Family Support Services.

McKague answers questions daily regarding what to do in the event of a hurricane emergency.

Evacuating what amounts to a small city -- some 10,500 personnel and their families, along with ships and aircraft -- requires a lot of logistics and a lot planning to get it done right the first time.

"A lot of our military families, this may be their first hurricane season or their first time living in Florida,” McKague said. “So the idea of preparing for a storm may be new to them."

The HurrEx drills are conducted on an annual basis. Steve Millican, the emergency manager of Mayport, said that the drills don't start and end with just the evacuation but involve what happens before, during and after the event.

"Typically, the first week is response, how we're getting everybody generated up, all the preps made to get everybody out -- ships, aircraft and personnel,” Millican said. “The second week is our response for recovery. If we come in and the houses aren't here and the floodwaters are up, how we're going to repair everything and how we're going to get the infrastructure back up and ready to bring our Navy families back home."

Many locals know hurricanes are a threat, but the public can be apathetic after more than 10 years of Florida dodging hurricanes.

In 1999, however, Mayport's drill was implemented when Hurricane Floyd approached Florida with unparalleled fury, prompting a large-scale evacuation of the Jacksonville area and destroying the pier in Jacksonville Beach.

If a situation were to arise this year, Millican said his team has a plan.

"We have checklist, checklists galore, you know. How we ramp everybody up in a systematic, organized manner, depending on the checklist, and we go through these exercises and these checklists are modified and are either added to, modified or items are deleted if those resources are no longer available,” Millican said. “Same along with the recovery side, those checklists are in place."

For up-to-date hurricane information, tracking maps, flooding maps and evacuation routes, preparation tips and what do after the storm, download the The Weather Authority's hurricane tracker app for your iPhone or Android.