U.S. Navy Sorties Ships Ahead of Major Hurricane Florence, TS Olivia in the Pacific

The guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) departs Naval Station Norfolk after the announcement of Sortie Condition Alpha ahead of Hurricane Florence, Sept. 10, 2018. U.S. Navy Photo

U.S. Navy ships in Pearl Harbor and Norfolk have been ordered to sortie ahead of  Tropical Storm Olivia approaching the Hawaiin Islands and Hurricane Florence, which continues to roar towards the mid-Atlantic coast. 

U.S. Fleet Forces Command ordered Monday all Navy ships in the Hampton Roads area to set Sortie Condition Alpha as Hurricane Florence, now a Category 4 with 130+ m.p.h. winds, exploded size and strength. Sortie Condition Alpha is the order that commences the sortie to avoid heavy weather.

The Navy reported that nearly 30 ships were preparing to get underway from Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, and directed to areas of the Atlantic to avoid the worst impacts of the storm and provide assistance after it passes. 

TheNavy said there will be some ships that will not get underway due to maintenance, but extra precautions – including adding additional mooring and storm lines, dropping the anchor, and disconnecting shore power cables – will be taken to avoid damage.

“Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway,” said U.S. Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady in a news release earlier this weekend.

The NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center reported in its 11 a.m. EDT update that Hurricane Florence was located about 900 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina. On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Bahamas through Wednesday, and approach the coast of North Carolina or South Carolina as a Major Hurricane on Thursday and Friday.

hurricane florence sept 11
Photo: NOAA

Tropical Storm Olivia Approaching Hawaii

In the Pacific, Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Hawaii region, said all U.S. Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii have been ordered to sortie as Tropical Storm Olivia approaches the Hawaiian Islands.

The Navy said it ordered the sortie in order to reduce the risk of significant damage to ships and piers during potential high winds and seas caused by Tropical Storm Olivia. Tropical Storm Olivia was forecast set to strike the Hawaiian Islands overnight Tuesday as it continues to gradually weaken.

“Sortie of our Pearl Harbor-based ships allows them the most protection from the approaching storm,” said Fort. “An early sortie allows them enough time to transit safely out of the path of the storm.”

Coast Guard Port Conditions

Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port in North Carolina has set Port Condition X-ray, while Sectors Virginia and Maryland set Port Condition Whiskey as of Monday evening, indicating that hurricane-force conditions are anticipated.

Port Condition Whiskey indicates that sustained winds greater that 39 mph are possible within 72 hours. Condition X-ray is within 48 hours.

The Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City set X-ray at 9 p.m., Monday, with Hampton Roads anticipating the switch to X-ray just after midnight. The COTP of Baltimore set a modified version of Whiskey Monday afternoon.

In port condition X-Ray, vessels more than 500 gross tons should make preparations to leave the port or have received permission from the COTP to remain in port.