PANAMA CITY, FL (RNN) - A military base has been extensively damaged as it was hit by one of the most intense hurricanes ever to make landfall in the U.S.
Nearly all the structures on Tyndall Air Force Base sustained significant damage on Wednesday, the base said, impacted by Hurricane Michael’s Category 4 winds and, in some cases, its storm surge.
No one was hurt on the base, as all but a small ride-out crew had evacuated.
“The flight line is devastated. Every building has severe damage. Many buildings are a complete loss,” the base said via Facebook.
The marina was also completely destroyed, and the base exchange, commissary and elementary school sustained considerable damage.
Imagery from the base showed roofs ripped off of buildings.
Power and utilities remain out, and trees block roads on the base. As a result, the base will remain closed and military personnel and their families must stay away, even those with homes on the base.
However, help is on the base, base leadership said.
The base, home of the 325th Fighter Wing, is located 12 miles east of Panama City and about 16 miles east of Mexico Beach, where Hurricane Michael first made landfall.
Most of the base personnel and their families were moved out of harm’s way before Michael hit on Wednesday, and the families will not be able to come back home until the repairs are completed.
Tyndall ordered the mandatory evacuation of all non-mission essential personnel on Monday, with the base providing transportation to personnel and their families as needed.
Photos emerged in the media of a jet flipped over, but that aircraft was part of a static display. Most of the base’s aircraft were moved ahead of the storm.
Tyndall’s aircraft, including 55 stealth fighters, were moved to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, the New York Times reported.
In a letter Thursday, base commander Col. Brian S. Laidlaw told base families that the installation will require extensive repairs and asked for patience.
“We need to restore basic utilities, clear our roads of trees and power lines, and assess the structural integrity of our buildings,” he said. “I know that you are eager to return. I ask you to be patient and try to focus on taking care of your families and each other. We can rebuild our base, but we can’t rebuild any of you.”
People on Facebook offered to provide assistance to airmen and their displaced families, with some of the offers of help, including offers to house military families, coming from places in the Florida Panhandle that had escaped the hurricane’s wrath.
“There’s some Eglin military that want to open up their homes in Crestview,” one commenter said on Facebook.
Other people from near Hurlburt Field and Niceville offered places to stay.
In another similarity between hurricanes Michael and Andrew, Hurricane Andrew destroyed Homestead AFB in Miami-Dade County, FL, when it hit in 1992. The base was rebuilt and reopened two years later as Homestead Air Reserve Station.
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