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NASA Satellites Hurricane Irene Almost One-Third the Size of U.S. East Coast
The GOES-13 satellite saw Hurricane Irene moving through the Bahamas on August 25, 2011. Although Irene bypassed MacDill, the hurricane season is far from over. .(Photo Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)
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Hurricanes Be Warned: MacDill is prepared

Posted 8/25/2011   Updated 8/31/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Shawn Rhodes
927th Air Refueling Wing

8/25/2011 - MacDill AFB, Fla. -- Tampa is no stranger to hurricanes. The Tampa Bay Area has weathered nearly 50 hurricanes since 1900. This year, Hurricane Irene was poised to take her turn, but personnel at MacDill AFB were ready.

As Hurricane Irene blows through New England on a course toward the North Atlantic, it claimed the lives of dozens of people with winds sometimes blowing 110 miles per hour. Hurricane Charley, in 2004, was the last category four hurricane to make landfall in Florida.

MacDill is home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tasked with tracking hurricanes. They closely monitored Hurricane Irene and updated members of MacDill and the Tampa area regularly. They provide the critical capability of being able to monitor and predict the path of hurricanes and storms. This information is vital is giving people the time they need to evacuate or seek shelter.

"We feed the models you see on TV," said Don Aiken, the executive officer for aircraft operations at NOAA. "When a hurricane passes, the folks here need to know they were lucky. Tampa could be underwater ... and it could be weeks before the water recedes."

While MacDill prepared to weather the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was preparing to care for the civilians up and down the coast who could be impacted by the path of a hurricane.

"We know (Irene) is going to be a big storm and impact a lot of people," said Elizabeth Zimmerman, the deputy associate administrator of FEMA. She was on hand at MacDill to coordinate with NOAA and advise the base and surrounding community about measures they could take to keep safe from the hurricane off-shore. "Your life is more important. Listen to the warnings and take action as soon as possible."

Not only is MacDill prepared to weather the storm; it is also prepared to help its sister bases on the East Coast protect their resources. MacDill received aircraft from McGuire AFB, N.J., Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. and Dover AFB, Del.  C-17 Globemasters, C-5 Galaxys and a Navy E-6 Mercury called MacDill home while their own bases weathered the storm.

"Right now it appears that Hurricane Irene passed the Tampa Bay Area," said Col. David Pavey, commander of the 927th Air Refueling Wing. The 927th is the reserve unit stationed at MacDill. "This doesn't mean our role ceases, though. Keeping a literal 'weather-eye' out for worsening conditions, Team MacDill stands by to support the needs of other bases as these expensive assets are protected from harm."

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