Air Force officials on Friday remained uncertain how long Tyndall AFB would remain closed, after Hurricane Michael’s 150 mph winds swept through the installation last week leaving nearly every building damaged. “One hundred percent of the housing for that base is uninhabitable,” Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters in Washington. Tyndall and the surrounding region will require assistance for at least weeks, Lengyel said, with establishing communications beyond the Florida Panhandle one of the base’s first priorities. It also is not clear where the 3,600 airmen and families who live at Tyndall will be assigned, reported Federal News Network. “The initial concern right now is for the families and the people who were displaced from that,” he said. “I don’t think they can live on Tyndall, plus the schools and the rest, so there’s a lot to do with how they begin to mitigate the disaster that happened there.” … Two days after Hurricane Michael flattened Tyndall AFB, Florida Sens. Marco Rubio (R) and Bill Nelson (D) and Rep. Neal Dunn (R) urged the Air Force’s senior leaders to expedite the effort to repair and restore operations at the installation. “Each of us stand ready to work with the Air Force to rebuild Tyndall AFB and advocate for the resources needed to do so,” states the Oct. 12 letter to Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “As the Air Force conducts its damage assessment, we request consistent, immediate, and detailed communication of the funding and support needed to repair infrastructure, restore operations and provide for local service members, civilians and their families,” the lawmakers say. The letter also highlights Tyndall’s primary missions — the Air Force’s training wing for the F-22 Raptor, and the air operations center for NORAD and U.S. Northern Command. … Meanwhile, the cleanup effort began Friday when an engineering unit arrived at Tyndall from Hurlburt Field located 100 miles to the west. The Red Horse Squadron was outfitted with heavy construction equipment, reported Stars and Stripes. On Thursday evening, Air Force special tactics airmen from Hurlburt reopened Tyndall’s airfield to allow aircraft to deliver emergency supplies to the area. The first air delivery arrived just after 7 p.m., according to a news release. … The Air Force acknowledged that several aircraft not evacuated from Tyndall for maintenance or safety reasons may have been damaged, as all of the hangars at the base suffered severe damage. “We anticipate the aircraft parked inside may be damaged as well, but we won’t know the extent until our crews can safely enter those hangars and make an assessment,” said Air Combat Command spokeswoman Erica Vega. Many of the planes left behind were F-22s, according to a defense official. Photos of the catastrophic damage left in the wake of Hurricane Michael, along with a video of an aerial assessment, can be found on this Stars and Stripes link.
Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick