US Navy Flees Hurricane Irene

The US Navy has ordered all its ships away from its huge port at Hampton Roads, Virginia, as the eastern US seaboard braced for the destructive-strength Hurricane Irene.

“Ships will make final preparations overnight in anticipation of getting underway early August 25 (Friday),” a Navy statement said.

Vice Admiral Daniel Holloway, commander of the US 2nd Fleet, said that the decision to send the ships from Hampton Roads is based on Hurricane Irene’s current track that indicates the storm will produce at least 50 knots of wind and a large storm surge.

Irene is a category three hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, and is forecast to strengthen to a category four storm with winds of 217 kilometres per hour by the time it reaches the US coast over the weekend.

Along the coastline North Carolina, directly in Irene’s path as its forecast to skirt north, officials ordered mandatory evacuations for tourists.

“The forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge is too great to keep the ships in port. There is a much greater potential of not only the ships being damaged, but also the pier infrastructure,” Vice Admiral Holloway said, adding that the ships would fare better storms of such magnitude out at sea.

“Having the ships underway also makes them ready and available to respond to any national tasking, including any needed disaster response efforts in the local area after the storm has passed.”

The National Weather Service puts the hurricane either making landfall on the Outer Banks or skirting just east of the barrier islands.

Sparsely populated in the winter, many of the islands are a popular tourist destination in the summer.

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