Guantánamo weathers hurricane well, commander says

The base came through “relatively unscathed,” but for a few downed trees and power lines.

Carol Rosenberg
Miami Herald

Guantánamo Bay Navy base got through Hurricane Irma “relatively unscathed,” the commander said Saturday, but for a few downed trees and power lines.

“So far no damage of any significance has been reported or discovered,” Navy Capt. Dave Culpepper told the roughly 5,500 residents through a midday broadcast on Radio Gitmo. He had earlier decided not to send base residents to hardened shelters after tracks showed the storm going north of the base, and no destructive winds were expected.

Bay waters were still rough, with 6-foot-swells, requiring no ferry crossings although a smaller utility boat could carry passengers between the Leeward and Windward sides.

“The beaches are all still closed,” Culpepper advised, reporting that after a survey of the damage “tracking nicely to get back into full operations here.”

Culpepper noted that, while the hurricane had passed to the north, windy weather might complicate a flight expected Tuesday connecting the base with Jacksonville, Florida, and Norfolk, Virginia.

He added that his decision to not open shelters on the 45-square-mile base was vindicated — “hindsight tells us we made the right call” — particularly in savings of unnecessary “manpower, effort and the money spent.”

Navy Cmdr. John Robinson III, spokesman for the prison staffed by 1,500 U.S. forces and civilians, said Saturday afternoon that in the seafront Detention Center Zone, within the 45-square-mile base, the U.S. military was “conducting normal operations,” and that all “personnel are accounted for.”

Meantime, a military official with knowledge of the situation said the expeditionary war court compound where the alleged Sept. 11 terror attacks plotters are to face trial likewise suffered “no significant damage.” Some ceiling tiles in the courtroom got wet and would require replacement, and a portion of the press operation that can accommodate 60 journalists also suffered some water leakage.

———

©2017 Miami Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service