GRAPHIC -- Keesler and Columbus Air Force bases in Mississippi survived Hurricane Katrina. Base officials are still evaluating the damge to Columbus, but so far have reported only moderate damage to one building. Keesler, however, has suffered extensive damge to industrial and housing areas. (U.S. Air Force graphic)
8/30/2005 - SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., survived a direct hit by Hurricane Katrina, but initial estimates show it suffered extensive damage to industrial and housing areas.
At Columbus AFB, Miss., about 290 miles north of Keesler, base officials said the pilot training base suffered only moderate damage to one building. However, assessment crews are just starting to evaluate the damage there.
There were no deaths or injuries at either base, according preliminary reports by base officials.
However, at Keesler -- a major technical training base -- damage is severe enough that people sheltered on base since before the storm will remain there until at least Sept. 1, said Brig. Gen. William T. Lord, 81st Training Wing commander.
The order for people to remain in shelters is to ensure recovery teams have cleared debris and made it safe for people to return home, he said.
“The safety, health and well-being of our Keesler family are our priority,” General Lord said. “We promise to keep them apprised of the progress of our recovery teams and will release them to go home and assess their own damage as soon as it is safe for them to travel.”
The general said assessment crews are at work and the base is in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Commanders at many military bases have also offered aid.
“We are doing everything within our power to clear the way and provide the best immediate and long-term assistance to help each one of us recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” General Lord said.
The general said he wants to assure people that they are not alone, and that base officials will do everything possible to keep them safe and get them home as soon as possible.
“Please be patient,” the general is urging base members. “We all need to pull together and help each other make it through this difficult time safely.”
Keesler officials are telling all inbound students, people moving to the base and people evacuated not to report to the base. Instead, officials said people should contact their unit control center to find out when to report or return to base. Also, there are phone numbers posted on its public Web site at www.keesler.af.mil.
People who cannot contact their unit should continue calling -- if the line is busy -- or call the Air Force Personnel Center’s readiness center at (800) 435-9941 for further instructions on reporting to the base. (The 81st TRW public affairs office contributed to this article.)