As more military planes landed Friday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to avoid the destructive path of powerful Hurricane Irma barreling towards Florida, nearly 100 medical personnel at the base were put on standby to respond to the massive storm’s aftermath.
Irma — downgraded Friday to a category 4 storm yet still packing winds up to 155 miles per hour as it churns toward the Florida coast it is expected to dwarf — is just one of the disasters on the mind of Cory Paul, the American Red Cross Dayton Area Chapter executive director.
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“We’re definitely deploying more volunteers to the storms,” Paul said. “We have a volunteer helping with the wildfires out west, and we had an earthquake hit Mexico this morning.”
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Paul said new volunteers are welcome, whether in southwest Ohio to assist with administrative work, or as part of a team to go down to one of the disaster sites.
“I want to applaud people for being so generous already,” Paul said. “I’m very proud of the community as a whole.”
WPAFB, VA monitor storm
The pilots and aircraft already at Wright-Patterson were expected to stay into next week “but the weather and where the hurricane goes will really dictate that for us,” said Col. Bradley McDonald, Wright-Patterson installation commander.
The Wright-Patt flight line since Thursday has recorded the arrival of 12 F-15 Eagle fighter planes from the Florida Air National Guard in Jacksonville, and four Navy P-8 Poseidon and five P-3 Orion anti-submarine hunting planes from Naval Air Station Jacksonville among a parade of planes expected to grow larger.
A total of six C-17 Globemaster III transport planes were set to land Friday evening and Saturday from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. A half dozen Navy F/A-18 fighter jets were tentatively expected early next week.
“We continue to serve as a safe haven for aircraft,” McDonald said. “… There’s a lot of fluidity to this process and requests continue to flow in.”
On Thursday, a C-17 based at Wright-Patt flew to Florida to pick up a HH-60 Pavehawk and transport the helicopter to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., said Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, a spokeswoman with the 445th Airlift Wing. The wing flew three C-17s to Texas after Hurricane Harvey’s devastating floods.
McDonald said 97 base medical personnel — including surgeons, nurses and physical therapists — who can operate a 25-patient clinic, were placed on standby for possible orders to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s destruction.
Wright-Patterson Medical Center personnel were told to be ready to supply equipment for pediatric and geriatric patients, he said.
“We don’t know at this time if and when they will be deployed,” he said. “We stand ready to support where able.”
More than 50 Dayton VA Medical Center employees were on standby to potentially assist with hurricane recovery efforts, according to hospital spokesman Ted Froats. A pharmacy technician was sent to VA facility in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey struck last month, he said.
News reporters brace
Layron Livingston, a former WHIO-TV reporter now living in Miami working for WPLG-TV, said his apartment building was being shut down during the evacuation.
“Because I signed a hurricane addendum when I moved into my building, and that addendum says that when an evacuation order goes into effect or is issued, then we have to leave the building,” Livingston said Thursday night on Facebook Live.
He said he is working 12-hour shifts for the television station’s around-the-clock coverage, but plans to stay safe.
“But, we’ll do our best and work our hardest to make sure people know what’s going on and to know how to protect themselves,” Livingston said.
Up the coast in Jacksonville, WHIO Radio’s Jeremy Ratliff traveled Friday to Cox sister station WOKV Radio. He will assist in the station’s news coverage and provide live radio coverage back to the Miami Valley on AM 1290 and News 95.7.
Storm impacts flights
Ratliff left Thursday morning by flight out of Dayton International Airport via Atlanta, but other direct area flights departing to and arriving from Florida have been impacted by the storm.
On Friday morning, an Allegiant Air flight from Dayton International Airport to Tampa Bay’s St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport was cancelled.
Allegiant, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Frontier Airlines each cancelled or delayed service between Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and various locations in Florida, including St. Petersburg, Ft. Myers, Miami and Orlando.
Several Cincinnati-Florida flights remained scheduled, though more flights could be cancelled or delayed as Irma moves closer to land.