The US Navy made a decision to send as many ships to sea as possible before the Category 4/5 hurricane hits the eastern shores of the USA. Some 30 ships, almost a third of the entire US fleet, are located in Hampton Roads on the coast of Virginia, and all ships able to raise steam and head out to sea have done so, on the basis that they are better able to weather a storm of this magnitude in the open seas than in an anchorage or alongside. Ships that were unable to leave due to repairs have been doubling up on lines and mooring cables, as well as dropping additional anchors wherever possible. Power lines and other ship to shore cables have been removed to reduce the chance of fires. The deployment also means they will be in a better position to react to requests for assistance after the storm has subsided.
Military aircraft have also been moved out of the path of the storm. Some have gone from the coast to airfields in Ohio, with National Guard airbases being used as temporary sites pending a return to coastal after conditions return to normal. However, it is likely that some cargo aircraft such as C-130s will be moved closer to the area to assist with any emergency work during and after the storm. Fort Bragg in North Carolina is being used as a staging post for relief supplies, with food, water and beds being stockpiled as part of the support effort.
So far the predictions are that the storm might persist for some time over the coastal area as it starts to reduce in intensity to a tropical storm. As a category 4/5 hurricane, the winds are likely to be devastating. Many houses in the area are built of timer and able to stand up to strong winds by flexing. However, once they start to break up the resulting flying timbers can be extremely dangerous. Rainfall is expected to be very heavy and prolonged over the next few days and this, combined with any tidal surge, is potentially going to be worse than the winds in terms of damage and threat to life.
In other areas of the US East Coast, ocean-going commercial vessels have also been advised to leave port if they can, although TMT is not aware of any major ports actually being closed. Smaller vessels are usually taken out of the water and often stored in “multi-storey” boat stores. However, damage to small private boats can be substantial, with yachts and fishing boats being blown over on the quayside or in boat-yards. This can also be the case in small boatyards in creeks quite far up-river as storm surges make their way inland.
The Royal Navy carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is currently in Mayport, Florida, well south of the area affected by Florence.