BEAUFORT

As Hurricane Isaac approaches land, air station's new jets moved out of harm's way

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comAugust 28, 2012 

COURTESY OF WEATHER.COM

  • Turbulent weather in Beaufort County is related to Hurricane Isaac, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.

    While showers and thunderstorms are expected through Thursday, residents shouldn't be concerned about waterspouts off coast, the NWS said, though a moderate risk of rip currents remains throughout the week.

    In Charleston, waterspouts and more flooding are predicted for today. Torrential rains flooded streets Tuesday in the city and surrounding areas. The weather service reported that some areas received as much as 8 inches of rain unrelated to Hurricane Isaac.

    Emergency officials reported at least 20 stranded vehicles downtown, where crews had to help motorists out of cars. Some businesses and homes also reported flooding.

Commanders at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort have kept a close eye this week on Hurricane Isaac as it churned toward the Gulf Coast, where a small fleet of the base's new fighter jets are stationed.

Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 trains on Joint Strike Fighters stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., said Capt. Jordan Cochran, air station spokesman.

VMFAT-501, like the F-18 squadrons at the Beaufort base, are part of Marine Aircraft Group 31 and report to commanders in Beaufort.

To brace for the storm, the jets were moved inside hangars specially designed to withstand hurricane-force winds, Cochran said.

An Eglin spokesman told the Air Force Times the hangars can withstand gusts from a Category 4 hurricane, which can pack winds of 130 to 156 mph.

Ten F-35Bs -- the version of the new Joint Strike Fighter designed specifically for the Marine Corps -- are housed at Eglin, said Benjamin Bolin, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor building the new jet.

The F-35B eventually are expected to replace all of the F-18s now flown at the Beaufort base.

Construction began in September on a new training and flight-simulator facility, which marked the beginning of a $351.8 million makeover for the air station before the jet's expected arrival in 2013 or 2014.

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