As Hurricane Idalia makes landfall in Florida as a category 3 storm, military and commercial airports in the state have evacuated and made preparations for its onslaught.
Tampa International Airport
Tampa International Airport (TPA) announced its closure on August 29, 2023 ahead of Idalia’s arrival.
The airport suspended all operations from 00:01 local time on August 29, 2023, and will remain closed until it can assess damages from the hurricane later in the week.
TPA airport said that the closure will allow preparations to its airfield and terminals, including the securing of jet bridges, ground equipment and any remaining aircraft before Idalia’s expected landfall.
The airport also took to social media platform X, formerly Twitter, to share how it prepared and secured all major equipment to protect them from potential impact.
The airport said it anticipates reopening on the morning of August 31, 2023, with damage assessments beginning after the storm passes.
As of August 30, 2023, the airport took to X to say that damage assessments are underway and it will announce its reopening when it is safe.
MacDill Air Force Base
As Idalia approached Florida’s gulf coast, an evacuation order was made at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
The mandatory base-wide evacuation order was issued for non-mission essential individuals and dependents, to be completed by 10:00 local time on August 29, 2023.
The evacuation also included the base’s KC-135 aircraft.
MacDill Air Force Base also took to social media to share a video showing that all aircraft have been evacuated and secured in time for Idalia’s arrival.
The Air Force Base also recorded a St. Elmo’s fire during the evacuation.
St. Elmo’s fire—also called Witchfire or Witch’s Fire—is a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a corona discharge from a rod-like object such as a mast, spire, chimney, or animal horn in an atmospheric electric field.
On August 30, 2023, MacDill Air Force posted an update on X saying it will remain closed for the day, and that evacuees should plan on at least one more night in a safe location.
Other Air Force bases in Florida that could potentially be affected by Idalia are: Eglin Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, and Hurlburt Field, all located in the Western Florida Panhandle.
The last time a hurricane caused extensive damage to a US Air Force Base was in October 2018, when several F-22 Raptors based at Tyndall Air Force Base were damaged in varying degrees by Hurricane Michael.
The unit cost for an F-22A Raptor, one of the most advanced fighters of the USAF, would be around $185 million and $350 million.