Ernesto Hits Gitmo, DoD Prepares for Florida Landfall

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2006 - Defense Department officials and agencies have geared up to provide whatever support the Federal Emergency Management Agency may need in response to Hurricane Ernesto.

Tropical Storm Ernesto hit Cuba west of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay this morning, base spokeswoman Stacey Byington said.

The storm carried 33-knot sustained winds with gusts up to 38 knots, she said. The base's 7,000 personnel got hit with 2.1 inches of rain. "We were prepared," Byington said. "Most people sheltered in place and came out when the 'all clear' sounded this morning at about 10:30."

Forecasters expect Ernesto will climb back to hurricane status in the warm waters north of Cuba. Satellite images show it headed for Florida.

DoD is working with FEMA experts to prepare for any eventuality. "We have the defense coordinating officer and the defense coordinating element from FEMA Region 4 deployed to the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Fla.," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. DoD also has representatives at the Regional Response Coordination Center in Atlanta.

"There has also been a determination that should there need to be logistical staging, that Fort Rucker and Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and Homestead Air Reserve Base and Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida will serve as FEMA logistical staging areas," Whitman said.

The various officials help identify logistical support and are the liaisons into U.S. Northern Command, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In addition, the states deploy their own National Guard assets as conditions warrant.

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