Hurricane Florence: Dozens of U.S. Navy Ships Ordered to Leave Hampton Roads

Tropical Storm Florence is expected to become a dangerous major hurricane by late in the week. 

With Hurricane Florence picking up speed, and forecast to make landfall as a powerful hurricane in the Mid-Atlantic, the Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command has ordered all U.S. Navy ships in the Hampton Roads area to set Sortie Condition Alpha. That means they must leave port Monday. More than 30 ships are getting ready to go; some aren’t able to leave due to maintenance status, but crews are taking extra precautions.

The predicted destructive winds and tidal surge from Florence are too great to keep the ships in port. U.S. Fleet Forces Command says the ships will be directed to “areas of the Atlantic where they will be best postured for storm avoidance.”

“The decision to sortie the ships from Hampton Roads is based on Florence’s current track, which indicates the storm has the potential to bring sustained winds in excess of 50 knots and storm surge in excess of 8 feet to the area, which meets the criteria for getting the fleet underway to avoid storm damage,” said USFF Commander Adm. Christopher Grady. “Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway.”

Having the ships underway also makes them ready and available to respond to any national tasking, including any needed disaster response efforts in the local area after the storm has passed.

Sortie Condition Alpha indicates the port will see destructive weather conditions within 24 hours, and also initiates the execution of the sortie for all ships able to get underway.

All Navy installations in the Hampton Roads area have also been ordered to set Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness Three (III), meaning sustained destructive winds of greater than 50 knots associated with a tropical system are expected within 48 hours.

-Meg Walburn Viviano