Hurricane Florence is expected to dump up to 20 inches of rainfall in Jacksonville, home to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina’s second-largest military base.
Onslow County, Jacksonville’s home, issued a mandatory evacuation beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The county is not opening emergency shelters because they will not be able to withstand a category 4 Hurricane, WITN reported. Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Phillips issued a voluntary evacuation beginning at 3 p.m. Tuesday, asking residents to seek shelter outside of the area.
Through our CuriousNC project, a News & Observer reader asked us why the Jacksonville/Camp Lejeune area wasn’t being evacuated when areas north and south are under mandatory evacuation?
Curious NC, a project by The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun, tries to answers readers’ questions about North Carolina, and this week we’re focused on answering your questions about Hurricane Florence.
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Glen Hargett, assistant City Manager for Jacksonville, said the portion of the city that’s not on Camp Lejeune is about 10-square miles.
Because Onslow County has already issued a mandatory evacuation, Jacksonville only issued a voluntary evacuation, he said.
“The city doesn’t operate shelters, that’s a county function,” Hargett said.
Camp Lejeune, which spreads over 240 square miles, has not issued any mandatory evacuations because the base can protect personnel and civilians that live on base, said Nat Fahy, strategic communications and operations director at Camp Lejeune.
But Fahy said non-essential personnel, including some Marines who aren’t deploying, were permitted to leave upon the approval of chain of command, Fahy said.
“The point we’re trying to make is that Camp Lejeune is a safe place,” Fahy said.
The decision not to evacuate the base has led to some criticism on social media by people who note the base is at sea level near inland bodies of water.
Brig. Gen. Julian D. Alford, base commander, responded to those comments on Camp Lejeune’s Facebook page, saying:
“There have reportedly been multiple comments that the decision to remain in place at Camp Lejeune is “all about the money.” Federal funding was authorized prior to Tuesday to support IF a decision was made to evacuate the base. Let me be clear, the decision NOT to mandate evacuation was made after my assessment of the situation. As mentioned in my earlier statement, this base is well-prepared to face the oncoming storm. The commands and personnel who remain are well-postured to react to situations and will be working together, like Marines always do in battle, to get through Hurricane Florence. Those personnel who determined they would rather depart were and are allowed to do so with enough warning to find shelter where they deem most suitable. Some Marines have nowhere to go, or no car to get there, so we will take care of them here aboard the base.”
Fahy also pointed out that although some Marines were given the opportunity to leave, roads might become dangerous with the weather, traffic may get heavier as drivers leave the area, hotels may not have any vacancies and fuel supplies might become overwhelmed.
The base has power generators, water treatment facilities, food halls, emergency shelters and barracks that may be used at some point during the hurricane.
“This base has survived for 77 years and we will withstand the toughest conditions,” Fahy said.