Most of the roof has been torn from an airplane hangar, and debris litters Tyndall Air Force Base, severely damaged after Hurricane Michael, on Wednesday, 17 October 2018. Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images

By Amanda Morris
20 October 2018

(NPR) – Swimming in St. Andrew Bay was the first thing Jillian Arrowood wanted to do when she moved into her new home on Tyndall Air Force base on 8 October 2018. She and her two daughters had just joined her husband William, her son, and her father-in-law, an Army retiree who had recently had a stroke, in their new home by the water.

Her 12-year old daughter didn't have a bathing suit, but was so excited that she jumped in the water with her clothes on. It felt like a perfect day: 85 degrees, sunny, and slightly breezy. There was no indication of the bad weather that was headed their way.

Just as the sun was setting, a nearby airman who had been fishing told them that Tyndall received evacuation orders. Less than six hours after Jillian and her daughters arrived on base, the Arrowood family was packing up to leave, and haven't been back since.

They are one of hundreds of military families that have been displaced from Tyndall Air Force base as a result of Hurricane Michael. The eye of the Category 4 storm cut straight through the base on Wednesday, 10 October 2018, causing catastrophic destruction. The storm reduced houses to splinters, blew off roofs, and busted open hangars where top-grade aircraft such as F-22 planes were housed.

In total, Brig. Gen. Edward Thomas, the Air Force Director of Public Affairs, estimated that there were over 860 housing units on the base, and about 11,000 airmen and their families assigned there.

Robert Hill surveys the damage within his living room on Wednesday, 17 October 2018 at Tyndall Air Force Base, after Hurricane Michael hit the base last week. Support personnel from Tyndall and other bases were on location to support Airmen returning to their homes to assess damage and collect personal belongings. Photo: Kelly Walker / U.S. Air Force

He likened the damage to that seen on the Keesler Air Force base after Hurricane Katrina. He used Keesler as a comparison when estimating how long restorations would take.

"I think it would be fair to say it will be years to make Tyndall look like it did before the hurricane hit," he said at a Tyndall press conference this week.

While resumption of training missions could happen in mere months, he said a return to normal living on base does not look likely anytime soon. Those who have been displaced from Tyndall are stuck in limbo, uncertain of what will happen next. [more]

'It Will Be Years' Before Life At Tyndall Air Force Base Returns To Normal

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