NORFOLK, Va. - The Navy has ordered ships at Naval Station Mayport to Sortie Condition Alpha ahead of Hurricane Dorian. Hampton Roads ships also seem to be taking similar commands as well, according to information shared with News 3.
Alpha means the sortie begins to avoid heavy weather.
Six ships stationed at Mayport got underway over the weekend ahead of the hurricane. They are being directed to areas of the Atlantic where they will be best positioned to avoid the storm. Some ships at Naval Station Norfolk started to leave the base Wednesday morning.
“The ships are designed to handle heavy winds, high seas, some pretty adverse conditions out at sea," Captain Derek Lavan, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Second Fleet, said. "When they’re pier-side against, as you can see concrete piers, that’s not what they were designed for.”
Among the ships leaving were the U.S.S Truxtun and the U.S.S. San Jacinto. They are two of 20 ships slated to sail out to sea.
Roughly 15,000 to 20,000 Sailors will be on the ships.
“It’s not a last-minute decision. They’ve known for a couple of days," Lavan said. "They’ve had time to take care of their families and make sure all the family needs will be taken care of before we take them out to see with us.
Other ships are being ordered to shelter in place and have options to avoid damage including additional mooring and storm lines, dropping anchor and disconnecting shore power cables.
"Our top priority must always be the safety and security of our ships and aircraft, as well as our Sailors and families. We move our ships and aircraft in order to mitigate potential damage. When maintenance status prevents storm avoidance, we take extra precautions to best protect these units,” said Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet in a statement.
Meanwhile, 110 Navy aircraft will be leaving Naval Station Norfolk. Helicopters and planes will head to bases in Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee.
“It’s pretty important that we keep the aircraft operable," Capt. Shawn Bailey, Commander of Helicopter Sea Combat Wing, said. "So, a lot of what we’re doing now is putting our flyable assets in other places so that if they’re needed right after the storm they can be utilized."
The captains said it is too early to tell how long the Navy assets will be out at sea or at other bases.