PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Senator Bill Nelson assured residents that Tyndall Air Force Base, ‘demolished’ by Hurricane Michael, will in fact be rebuilt.
In a phone interview with WMBB News 13, Nelson said he saw the devastation first-hand during a visit to the base three days ago.
He described some of the older buildings on base as needing to be scrapped and rebuilt. Other newer buildings on base withstood the wind, but sustained a great deal of damage inside once windows shattered.
Nelson said he’s heard fears that Tyndall AFB might be shut down like Homestead AFB was in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.
“Let me assure you that Tyndall AFB will be rebuilt,” the senator said. “It will become a modern air force base that will be an example of all future air force bases.”
The day after the hurricane, members of the 1st Special Operation Wing and the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron from Hurlburt Field were sent to Tyndall AFB to evaluate the damage. The airmen were able to clear debris and set up new lights on the runway in order for the air base to get back up and going quickly. This gave aircrafts the ability to land at the base and help out the community as well as assess the further damage of the air base.
.@USAFSpecTactics were #FirstThere the day after #HurricaneMichael devastated parts of Florida. Within an hour of landing at @TeamTyndall they had assessed, cleared and restored the airfield back to normal operations to begin receiving humanitarian aid: pic.twitter.com/xZEQ80tmP5— USSOCOM (@USSOCOM) October 16, 2018
Tyndall AFB is home to thousands of active-duty troops and their families, as well as retirees and other personnel. Its fleet of aircraft include 50 F-22 Raptor jets, T-38s and E-9As.
Nelson said all the flyable aircraft at the base were evacuated from the area ahead of the hurricane. Other aircraft in ‘various states of maintenance’ had to be left behind. He could not comment on the severity of damage to any of those planes.
Tyndall AFB has a huge impact on the local economy. In 2017, the base’s economic impact on the surrounding area was $596,000,110.
In a joint letter sent to President Donald Trump, Sen. Nelson, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Rep. Neal Dunn, advocated for the rebuilding of Tyndall AFB.
“It is imperative that we rapidly repair and restore operations as quickly as possible in order to protect and promote U.S. national security interests,” the letter reads.
Read the full letter below:
Tyndall Air Force Base is a vital part of our national security and our Florida economy. @marcorubio and I asked for the president’s full commitment to rebuild the entire base. pic.twitter.com/PKMcMU48FH— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) October 15, 2018
Troops have been given permission to return to their homes and dorms on base to inspect and gather their belongings over a five-day period. No one will be able to stay on base, as the mandated evacuation order remains in place.