WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department has naval, air and ground assets ready to initiate response operations in Florida today and will continue Hurricane Irma response operations throughout the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico region, DOD spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said today in a statement.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Northern Command and the Coast Guard are closely coordinating on the management of air assets to maximize the effective unity of effort, he said. DOD will complete the evacuation of U.S. citizens from St. Martin in the British Virgin Islands today, coordinate evacuation of U.S. citizens from other British Virgin Islands, and will provide humanitarian assistance -- water, sanitation, logistics support, movement of disaster relief personnel, and humanitarian commodities movement -- in response to State Department requests.
Irma is now a tropical storm and continues to weaken as it moves northwesterly into the southeastern U.S. today. The center is located 60 miles north of Tampa, Florida, with sustained winds of 70 mph. FEMA estimates that nearly 5 million people -- 34 percent of the state's population -- are without power in Florida. The main water line into the Florida Keys is reported to be offline. Damage to the Keys may necessitate evacuation of the 10,000 persons who did not evacuate before the storm.
VIRGIN ISLANDS AND PUERTO RICO
-- About 4,600 service members are supporting relief operations in the region.
-- The amphibious assault ships USS Wasp and USS Kearsarge -- with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit -- and the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill are in the U.S. Virgin Islands transferring non-critical care patients and delivering food and water.
-- The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit will transfer British Marines in St. Croix forward to the British Virgin Islands.
-- U.S. Transportation Command continues support to the St. Martin evacuation and humanitarian assistance, and the strategic lift of commodities to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
-- Army Corps of Engineers power restoration teams, debris removal experts, temporary roofing teams, and port survey personnel are on station.
-- The Defense Logistics Agency is shipping commodities and large generators to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
-- About 10,400 service members are supporting relief operations in the region.
-- The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln arrived off Florida's east coast last night with 24 helicopters and is prepared for operations in southern Florida and the Florida Keys this morning. The amphibious assault ships USS Iwo Jima and USS New York were expected to arrive this morning.
-- Homestead Air Reserve Base is assessed to be in good condition. The assessment of Naval Air Station Key West is ongoing.
-- The Army is pre-positioning 200 High-Water Trucks to be able to rapidly support Florida Army National Guard requirements.
-- U.S. Northern Command intends to establish airfields in southern Florida and support operations from the sea with air assets from the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York, USS San Jacinto and USS Abraham Lincoln.
-- Army Corps of Engineers power teams, debris removal teams, temporary roofing teams and port survey personnel are on alert and ready in Florida and Georgia.
-- The Defense Logistics Agency will support distribution of over 12 million meals over the next 10 days. All fuel requirements are met.
EVACUATION OF AMERICAN CITIZENS
-- U.S. Southern Command has coordinated the evacuation of 1,904 persons -- including 35 foreign nationals -- over the past three days. DoD and the State Department plan to evacuate all remaining U.S. citizens requesting evacuation today.
-- Overnight, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis approved a State Department request to evacuate U.S. citizens from the British Virgin Islands.