JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast dispatched a five-person Damage Assessment Team (DAT) to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, from Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Dec. 3, as part of a Contingency Engineering Response Team (CERT) after a tornado touched down on base, Dec. 2.
Although the 2018 hurricane season is officially over, this severe weather event highlights the need to have a yearround CERT capable of deploying at a moment’s notice.
“For this event, CERT DAT personnel were on the ground within 15 hours from storm passage to begin the damage assessments before daybreak,” said NAVFAC Southeast Disaster Preparedness Officer Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Thrun. “We maintain a list of CERT volunteers who are able to respond to these types of disasters, and can provide technical assessments as subject matter experts.”
NAVFAC Southeast is in the process of working with their Global Contingency Construction contractor to respond to the damaged facilities and start the recovery and repair process.
The tornado struck a pier facility primarily utilized by the U.S. Coast Guard. Wind speeds were measured at 138 mph, which places the cyclone at the lower end of EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
Initial reports indicated several metal buildings were severely damaged. The pier facility sustained electrical and water utility damage, where a majority of power poles were knocked down. Mobile facilities, equipment and personal vehicles sustained significant damage, many of which were lifted off the ground, due to high winds and tossed into the water.
“Our biggest concern is what objects ended up in the channel,” said NAVFAC Southeast Chief Engineer Jack McCarthy. “The harbor is dredged to a precise depth to allow ships access to the pier. Large debris in the water could drastically affect ship movement and potentially cause damage to the ships' hulls.”
NAVFAC Southeast is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other Navy organizations to have the channel hydrographically surveyed to identify any submerged debris that may need to be removed.
The CERT DAT is managed by the NAVFAC Southeast Capital Improvements and Operations leaders responsible for support to the installation. In conjunction with the installation Public Works Department staff, the DAT will prioritize and inspect each facility and infrastructure affected by the tornado. They will then record the damage to a sufficient degree to develop cost estimates for repairs.
“I have deployed before for hurricane work, but this is the first time we have deployed for a tornado,” said Eric Cannon, structural engineer. “In this case, it was definitely easier to get to the location and had a smaller area to work. Although the damage looks similar, the area was not as widespread.”
Typically, CERTs are deployed to assess hurricane or other storm damage to military installations, such as the case in October 2018 with Hurricane Michael at Naval Support Activity Panama City. In 2017, CERTs deployed to NAS Corpus Christi for Hurricane Harvey and then NAS Key West for Hurricane Irma. In 2016, teams deployed to the Bahamas and Cuba after Hurricane Maria went through the Caribbean. In April 2014, teams deployed to NAS Pensacola after heavy storms rolled through the area and again in August 2012 in response to Hurricane Isaac to Gulfport, Miss. and New Orleans. They are also called upon to deploy for humanitarian efforts, such as a tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
For more news from Naval Facilities Engineering Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navfachq/.