USA: SUBASE Weathers Irene Thanks to Plans, Preparations


Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE) put its destructive weather plans and three days of preparations to the test as Tropical Storm Irene came ashore in Connecticut Aug. 28.

Base Emergency Manager Alan Brown monitored the storm closely, giving SUBASE leadership the facts and keeping everyone abreast of the situation.

“We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best,” said Brown. “But as the captain and executive officer are fond of saying, ‘hope is not a plan.'”

The real plan, Brown pointed out, is the destructive weather appendix to the base’s Installation Emergency Management Plan.

“The Navy and the base have long had procedures in place to prepare for and respond to situations that involve destructive weather,” said Brown. “We even conduct annual exercises to practice those procedures. With Irene, we put that hard work into practice.”

On Thursday, Aug. 25, Navy families depleted commissary and exchange shelves and waited in long gas lines, heeding the base’s effort to ensure they followed the three overarching steps to hurricane preparedness: prepare a kit, make a plan and stay informed.

Naval Submarine School Sailors and other tenant command personnel installed flood gates in front of doors and placed more than 22,000 sand bags along waterfront buildings.

On Aug. 26, Commander, Submarine Group (CSG) 2 and SUBASE sortied the submarines in port for the protection of the boats, their crews, and the piers.

“[The] herculean task of getting four submarines that were in the middle of maintenance periods out to sea as professionally as was executed was just eye-watering,” said Rear Adm. Rick Breckenridge, CSG 2.

But as the submarines left, several Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ferries and the United States Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle (WIX 327) and Cutter Morro Bay (WTGB 106) sought shelter at SUBASE.

“It’s certainly a change to our typical lower base scene,” said Deputy Port Operations Officer Brian Kuerbitz as Eagle moored to SUBASE’s Pier 17, Aug. 27. “With our location farther up river and our high piers, SUBASE offers these cutters and DHS’ Plum Island ferries a better safe haven than where they were.”

Saturday evening, SUBASE closed to all but essential personnel and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activated.

Base Fire Department and Security Department personnel maintained patrols and a constant vigil. As Irene approached, base leadership and EOC staff scrutinized the impact that the heavy winds and significant storm surge of the eastern and most dangerous semicircle delivered.

“Technology is always great, but having eyes and ears on the front lines in safe locations across the waterfront ensured the commanding officer and the EOC maintained the big picture,” said Brown.

Irene’s wrath brought water several inches above the base’s lowest piers and quay walls, flooding areas of lower base. Irene’s wind felled several trees across base roads and a falling tree on Thresher Avenue tore down a telephone pole. Minor power outages were noted across the base during the peak of the storm, but critical building emergency generators kept most facilities up and running without impact.

Wind subsided, water receded, and assessments were completed as the storm passed. Irene caused only minor damage to SUBASE, according to SUBASE Commanding Officer, Capt. Marc W. Denno.

“We had no injuries to personnel on base; no reports of injuries to members of our Navy family off base; no significant damage to infrastructure; and no wind or water damage greater than we had anticipated,” Denno said. “I was extremely happy to report up the chain of command Monday morning that SUBASE was open for business.”

Denno was also pleased with how SUBASE had readied for the hurricane and executed its destructive weather plans in advance, during, and after the storm.

“Team New London’s commitment and determination in support of the mission and our fleet, fighters and families was visible across all command and department lines,” said Denno. “Our actions backed up our words. Every member of Team New London should be very proud.”
Source: navy, September 1, 2011;