Walloped by Hurricane Ian, the US Navy’s southernmost base is starting to dry out and rebuild.
“The safety of our Navy personnel and their families is my top priority,” said Capt. Beth Regoli, the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Key West. “We will continue to direct all resources possible toward the safe relocation and emergency assistance for those displaced by Hurricane Ian.”
Base spokesperson Danette Baso Silvers told Coffee or Die Magazine on Friday, Sept. 30, that king tides, a 4-foot storm surge, torrential rains, and shearing winds knocked out the runway and flooded the Truman Annex, which contains personnel residences along the shoreline.
Some of the homes had thigh-high water in them.
“They got a lot of saltwater intrusion in their home,” Silvers said. “It’s paradise. It’s beautiful, and then you have to deal with things like this, unfortunately.”
US Coast Guard Station Clearwater is handling overflights of the base because the Navy’s helicopters were evacuated to the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas before Ian made landfall over Florida.
A native Floridian, Silvers has seen her share of hurricanes over the decades and classifies Ian as the “the second-most nerve-wracking storm,” a notch below Wilma in 2005.
Emergency responders, including federal firefighters, evacuated 61 base residents to the local Navy Gateway Inns and Suites.
Silvers predicts the Navy Exchange, the commissary, and some Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities will open Friday, and possibly the port, but there’s no timetable on when the airfield might start operating.