Naval Weapons Station Yorktown "Hunkers Down" for Hurricane Exercise Citadel Gale

Story Number: NNS150501-11Release Date: 5/1/2015 12:39:00 PM
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By Mark O. Piggott, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown Public Affairs

YORKTOWN, Va (NNS) -- Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Yorktown rehearsed their ability to "hunker down" with a small contingent of base personnel in the event of a hurricane, April 27, as part of Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Hurricane Exercise (HURREX)/Citadel Gale. The exercise, running April 20 through May 1, simulates a hurricane striking the Hampton Roads area as a Category One storm.

"The purpose of HURREX is to provide training for afloat and shore-based commands with hurricane threat scenarios for use in exercising sortie evacuation, personnel accountability, disaster preparedness and recovery procedures," said John Frush, Emergency Operations Center Manager for WPNSTA Yorktown.

According to the National Weather Service, a category one hurricane carries sustained winds of 74-95 mph. Under these conditions, if an evacuation of the area is called for, WPNSTA Yorktown would maintain a minimal staff and hunker down in a bunker even if the winds exceed 100 mph.

The bunker is an old ordnance magazine that would provide safety and protection for emergency responders and their equipment during a category one storm. Their purpose for remaining on base is to more effectively coordinate recovery efforts after a storm has passed and to bring the installation back to full mission readiness as soon as possible.

"First priority is having a facility strong enough to handle a catastrophic storm, second is the coordination piece," Frush explained. "Preparing a plan that is executable as well as keeps personnel safe."

According to the Weather Channel Professional Division, 2015 is predicted to see a total of nine named storms, five hurricanes, and one major hurricane. This is below the annual average of 12 named storms, but this doesn't deter WPNSTA Yorktown from preparing for the worst.

"Testing our current destructive weather plan is the main purpose of this exercise; we have found areas for improvement, but the key is to make it better for the safety and recovery of the installation," Frush added. "The main change to the plan is implementing all the action/safety items needed to go to the bunker."

During the HURREX, base personnel were able to walk through the bunker area firsthand. They learned how to set up cots and see what emergency response vehicles would fit inside. According to Capt, Paul Haebler, commanding officer, WPNSTA Yorktown, their efforts and suggestions would only improve the readiness of the command in the face of a major storm.

"The key is pre-staging before we move into the bunker," Haebler said. "Now that we've seen what the bunker looks like, we can plan out how far in advance we would need to take action."

As the HURREX comes to a close, hurricane season kicks off June 1. At the end of the day, WPNSTA Yorktown has done its part to ensure the installation is ready for any situation to keep the fleet armed and ready.

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