Navy orders ships, aircraft to leave Norfolk, Va., base ahead of Hurricane Dorian

The Navy on Wednesday went into overdrive to protect the world's biggest naval base in Norfolk, Va., ahead of Hurricane Dorian.

The Navy sent more than 100 helicopters and airplanes inland and 20 ships to sea. Personnel filled10,500 sandbags to protect the flood-prone areas at Naval Station Norfolk, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

The base, which provided training during World War II, houses 149,000 personnel and provides facilities and installation services for the Navy, including some 75 ships and 134 aircraft, officials said.

Security personnel at Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., in 2004.

Security personnel at Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., in 2004. (AP/The Virginian-Pilot, File)

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The Navy estimated that 15,000-20,000 sailors were aboard the ships sent out to sea in advance of Dorian. A Dutch cruiser, HNLMS De Ruyter, was visiting the naval station when orders came to leave port.

Other preparations at the naval base included removing debris from drainage areas, fueling up emergency generators and preparing portable water supplies. In addition, sailors were urged not to leave their vehicles on base or near piers because of possible flooding.

Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, the commander of the Norfolk-based Second Fleet, said officials have been monitoring the monster storm, which has been creeping up the southeastern coast and is expected to lash the region with destructive winds and storm surge.

The Category 2 storm, which ravaged the Bahamas with over a full day of deadly wind and rain, threatened to swamp low-lying regions from Georgia to southeastern Virginia. According to a flood chart posted by the National Weather Service, the storm could get dangerously close to Charleston, S.C., with a combined high tide and storm surge of 10.3 feet. The record, 12.5 feet, was set by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

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Duke Energy said Dorian could trigger in excess of 700,000 power outages in eastern regions of North Carolina and South Carolina, and Georgia Power said about 2,800 homes and businesses were already coping with the loss of electricity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.