South East Area Exchanges Brace for Hurricane Idalia’s Impact and Aftermath
Exchanges in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina either closed or had limited hours Wednesday morning after Hurricane Idalia made landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast as a category 3 storm.
The hurricane was expected to generate 12- to 16-feet storm surges and life-threatening winds in Florida’s Big Bend area, where the state’s Panhandle meets the southern peninsula. Hurricane-force winds hit Florida’s Gulf Coast and were expected in portions of eastern Georgia and southeastern South Carolina.
CNN reported Wednesday morning that as of 9 a.m. EDT, the storm was generating sustained winds of 110 mph. At least 11 tornado warnings had been issued by Wednesday morning, the network reported, and parts of the Big Bend region were under an extreme wind warning, issued when winds of 115 mph are possible.
Storm surges were possible in other parts of Florida, and flooding was expected as far north as eastern North Carolina.
MacDill Air Force Base in Florida’s Tampa Bay was closed and under a mandatory evacuation order Wednesday. Exchange facilities will be closed until a full damage assessment is possible and all associates are accounted for.
During a Disaster Support Group (DSG) meeting Wednesday morning, MacDill General Manager Nicholas Nguyen said that he expected to get word late Wednesday about whether MacDill would reopen Thursday. Flooding and power outages have been reported in the Tampa Bay area.
In Georgia, Moody Air Force Base was closed Wednesday with no plans open Thursday. Winds of 50 to 55 knots (roughly 57 to 63 mph) were expected into the evening hours Wednesday.
Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, near Savannah, Georgia. were allowing only mission-essential personnel through Thursday. The Marne Express at Fort Stewart and the Hunter Corner Express were open until 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday, with plans to reopen at noon Thursday. All other Exchange facilities were closed.
Fort Stewart/Hunter AAF General Manager Hollie Morales said the worst part of the storm was expected to hit the installation between 6 and 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday. She expected the Exchange to return to normal operations by Friday.
At Fort Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia, Exchange operations were expected to be normal on Wednesday. Non-essential personnel left the post at noon. On Thursday, the Express is scheduled to open at 10 and the main store at 11.
Shaw Air Force Base command authorized early release beginning at 2 p.m. All Exchange facilities were scheduled to close at 5, except for the Express, which plans to close at 6:30 p.m.
Fort Jackson facilities planned to be open normal hours except for the Gate 2 Express and Popeyes, both scheduled to close at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions were expected at both Jackson and Shaw.
Heavy rain and high winds were expected elsewhere in Georgia, but no impact to Exchange business is expected.
Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina was under a tropical storm warning Wednesday morning. The base was expected to have a normal duty day Wednesday, with the possibility of command issuing an early release. All Charleston Exchange facilities were operating as normal Wednesday, although the Express will close early (7 p.m. Eastern) and turn off fuel pumps.
The base was expected to reopen at noon Thursday at unit commanders’ discretion. The Express is expected to reopen at 10 a.m. Thursday, and the main store at 11.
The Fuel team continues to keep an eye on developments in the hurricane’s path. Vice President of Fuel Operations Steven Davalos said that inventories look good at MacDill for when it reopens. Fuel terminals used by the Exchange remained open, but delivery trucks were not on the road. The conditions could also affect the Exchange at Tyndall AFB, which is on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle.
Fuel inventories were in good shape in Georgia and Charleston, with additional fuel en route. The Par, Allocation and Replenishment team, as well as distribution center and transportation teams, were standing by for additional support as needed.
The Disaster Support Group, a team of worldwide Exchange leaders that monitors weather and helps keep every level of the organization prepared for storms, planned to meet again Thursday and Friday to continue addressing the storm and its effect on Exchange facilities in its path.