NORAD personnel support the mission in the wake of Hurricane Michael

Cleanup effort at Tyndall Air Force Base
The cleanup effort at Tyndall Air Force Base continues with the goal of resuming base operations in January 2019. Photo: United States Air Force Combat Camera

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By Captain Jenna Knezacek, Canadian Detachment Tyndall

Hurricane Michael made landfall near Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base on October 10 with sustained winds of almost 250 km/h as a category four hurricane. A category five hurricane, with sustained winds of 253 km/h, destroys most homes in its path and cripples key infrastructure such as power, water and communications systems.

In advance of the hurricane’s arrival, Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) leadership issued mandatory evacuation orders for all members and their families. A select few either stayed at Tyndall or moved to Langley AFB to sustain its homeland defense mission.

The eye of Hurricane Michael passed over Tyndall AFB, and moved northward into Panama City and Lynn Haven, leaving utter destruction in its path.

In the wake of the Hurricane, Tyndall AFB housing was left completely uninhabitable. The devastation at Panama City and Lynn Haven left the towns unrecognizable; and Mexico Beach, Florida, was nearly wiped from the map. Many residents who remained behind were trapped without passable roads, electricity, water, or communications capabilities. Many of them, including members of the Canadian Detachment, lost their homes or sustained significant property damage.

Over 10 days after the storm, Bay County was still without potable water, and many areas were still without power and reliable communications. All area schools were either closed or used as shelters. To accommodate for the lack of resources and uninhabitable homes, the Tyndall Canadian Detachment remains displaced, taking up residence in Destin, FL.

Every evening, the team and their families huddle together to get updates on what is happening with their homes, how the American and Canadian militaries are supporting them, and to share their concerns on what the future holds.

On October 18, Lieutenant-General Christopher Coates, Deputy Commander, North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and Commander Canadian Element NORAD, went to speak with the detachment members and their families. He heard their stories and concerns, and provided guidance.

He reiterated that though he could make no promises, he would be the voice and provide a direct line to higher leadership to provide aid to our displaced Canadian Armed Forces families. To that end, he authorized an assistance team from Ottawa to arrive within 36 hours.

Addressing the military and family members, LGen Coates stated: “There will be no lack of challenges for those of you that want to get things done. Find where you can add value and dig in.”

The Canadian Detachment Tyndall is up to those challenges, and maintains its commitment to its NORAD mission of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America, in addition to contributing to its American counterparts’ effort to cleanup and reconstitute Tyndall AFB.

Image gallery

  • Cleanup effort at Tyndall Air Force Base
  • Residents near Tyndall Air Force base return home to survey the damage
  • Padre Jim Hardwick accompanies Lieutenant-General Christopher Coates, Deputy Commander, NORAD, as they field questions from Canadian Detachment Tyndall members and their families
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