Recovery a Long Process at Tyndall Air Force Base
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
As the recovery from Hurricane Michael continues, many of those who were forced to evacuate from Tyndall Air Force Base – Service members, civilians, family members – are searching for answers about their future. Where they will be able to live, where their military job will post them.
In a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon earlier this week, Air Force officials stressed that recovering from the worst hurricane to hit a base in years, if not decades, will be a long, difficult process. While things are much improved at Tyndall over the last few days, they said it will likely be years before the Florida base will be back to where it was before the storm landed its direct hit. The National Hurricane Center said the storm reached Category 4 status, with 150 mph winds as Hurricane Michael made landfall. Tyndall at one point was in the eye of the storm.
Brig. Gen. John Allen, the Air Force’s director of civil engineers, compared the damage to what Hurricane Katrina did to Mississippi’s Keesler Air Force Base in 2005. “I’ve been through a hurricane and a hurricane recovery before, but not on the magnitude of this,” Allen said. “You can imagine what kind of an effort lays ahead of us.”
Many decisions have yet to be made, such as how to care for the 11,000 Tyndall AFB evacuees. Some remain local, but others temporarily relocated with friends and family across the country — and it’s still unclear when they might be able to start returning home.
“We’re going to have to make some serious decisions on which families come back to that base or not,” said Air Force spokesman Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas. “There will be families that will be displaced from the base until we make a decision on where they’re going to PCS to, who will come back to the base. And then they will have their household goods picked up from Tyndall and moved to another location.”
Just a few days ago, the Air Force started opening up five-hour windows to allow evacuees to return to their homes, assess the damage, and take out valuables or other household goods.