News: Shaw prepares for hurricane season
Story by Airman 1st Class Jensen Stidham
SUMTER, S.C. - Hurricane season runs from June 1, and continues throughout November.
“What we will do here in preparation is run a hurricane evacuation exercise,” said Tech. Sgt. Adam Salter, 20th OSS weather flight NCO in charge. “We get Team Shaw leaders together and go over all of the hurricane condition levels and what they mean. Then we run through a mock hurricane scenario.”
Shaw AFB is located approximately 100 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Though most hurricanes will quickly weaken soon after hitting land, Team Shaw and its assets have the potential to be heavily damaged by a hurricane.
”In 1989, Hurricane Hugo hit Shaw AFB and the surrounding areas,” said Salter. “The weather station here on base recorded winds of 109 mph, causing approximately $47 million to the base. We typically don’t get these kinds of effects from a hurricane but, Hugo was a very powerful, fast moving storm which didn’t allow it to weaken quickly. The storm track was very important as well. The eye of Hugo passed just to our southwest as it continued moving on a northwest path through the state. That track left our area in the right-front quadrant of the storm, where the maximum effects of hurricanes are felt. Hugo was truly the worst case scenario for Shaw AFB.”
Although Team Shaw hasn’t been hit so severely since Hugo, being prepared is part of being an Airman.
“It is crucial that all Airmen be prepared in the event of a hurricane or any other natural disaster,” said Senior Airman Timothy Sanford, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management specialist. “In the event of a hurricane, stay calm, and listen to any information you are given. If told to evacuate then do so. Do not ignore any warnings or information that you are given.”
In the worst case scenario, Airmen, their families and even the aircraft should evacuate the area.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation emergency evacuation route for Sumter S.C., is U.S. Route 378 West.
“Depending on the severity of the hurricane, the aircraft and personnel may be evacuated,” said Sanford. “If the storm isn’t severe enough to deem evacuation necessary, then personnel may be told to take refuge in their homes and assets will be stored securely.”
In the event that a hurricane should hit Shaw AFB, the 20th CES emergency management team will issue directions to all base personnel.
“Our primary function during a hurricane is to manage the emergency operations center,” said Sanford. “As well as perform any necessary checklist items that are outlined in the installation emergency management plan.”
According to Dr. William Gray, Colorado State University hurricane specialist, throughout the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, there will be an expected nine total named storms with three hurricanes and one major hurricane; a below average year. Dr. Gray contributes cooler than normal Atlantic Ocean temperatures and an expected El Niño to develop across the equatorial Pacific off the coast of South America, a pattern that ultimately increases wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean ripping hurricanes apart.
“Everyone should be prepared,” said Salter. “Although the seasonal forecast is below average, it only takes one land falling hurricane to make a huge impact. In 1992, a season which saw only seven named storms, Hurricane Andrew struck south Florida as the 3rd strongest land falling hurricane in U.S. history.”