PENSACOLA, Fla, (NNS) -- Hurricane Matthew churned up the eastern seaboard of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, impacting several Navy installations, including Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
When the word was passed to evacuate certain parts of Jacksonville, thousands of families in the area heeded the advice and made their way out of the evacuation zones. One of those families had an old shipmate to rely on.
Petty Officer 1st Class Kenneth Peneueta, assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, and his wife, Sonja, and their children were among those evacuees. They were lucky to know someone on Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola who would be willing to house them during the storm.
The Peneutas have known Chief Petty Officer Adam Stewart and his wife for five years from when they were stationed together at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, at VP-47. Stewart and his wife Elise were transferred to the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training on NAS Pensacola two years ago. When Sonja Peneueta called Stewart, she was relieved when he said he would take in the family of four.
"I knew the evacuees from Guantanamo Bay were at Pensacola, so that put a strain on the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites," said Sonja Peneueta. "Had the roles been reversed, I would do the exact same for them. I am so thankful."
The Peneuetas said this is their first time evacuating from a hurricane as a family and they weren't really sure what to expect. But with newscasts talking about the potential loss of power and catastrophic winds, they knew they had to get out of town.
"It was kind of frenzied, because we weren't expecting to evacuate at first," said PO1 Peneueta. "We had supplies lined up at home, but we saw some of the desolation in Haiti and knew it was going to get bad, so we decided to take the kids and head west."
Sonja Peneueta said they were happy to have someone whom they have known for some time to assist them. It even afforded them time to catch up with their old friends.
"It was a good distraction from the hurricane to be able to spend time with friends," said Sonja Peneueta. "We cooked dinner for them on the first night to thank them."
During the times that Stewart and his wife are working, the Peneuetas have taken their 2-year-old daughter, Leiana, and their 9-month-old son, Kanoa, around the Pensacola area.
"We were able to see the National Aviation Museum, which we had both been to before, but it is so much more awesome now with kids," said Sonja Peneueta. "My daughter was in heaven."
They say that they are still unsure when they are heading back to Jacksonville, and are not sure what's in store for them once they return.
"There may be damage to our home or our other vehicle. There may be debris in the streets on the way. We are just on standby right now, waiting to get the all-clear," said Sonja Peneueta.
The Peneuetas have been able to stay abreast of the weather situation because of Navy Facebook pages and local Jacksonville news outlets. PO1 Peneueta also said he checks in with his command daily.
"I've been doing a phone muster to my command every day," he said. "I've also had contact with some of my junior Sailors to make sure they and their families are okay and don't need anything. So far, so good."