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Marine general defends decision to not evacuate large base in coastal Carolina

September 12, 2018 at 2:18 PM

Hurricane Florence is expected to impact Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina with periods of strong winds, heavy rains and flooding. (Lance Cpl. Isaiah Gomez/)

The commanding general of the Marine Corps’ largest base on the East Coast has decided not to issue mandatory evacuation orders as Hurricane Florence bears down, fraying nerves as local officials in the surrounding area warn citizens to leave or face potentially deadly consequences.

Brig. Gen. Julian D. Alford, the officer in charge of Camp Lejeune, N.C., argued in statements posted to the base’s Facebook page that the installation has buildings sturdy enough to weather the storm, along with ample supplies, equipment and a good indication of where flooding and storm surge are possible.

“I give you my personal assurance we are going to take care of everyone on this base,” Alford said. “Since 1941, this base and its Marines have been postured to deal with crises at home and abroad and Hurricane Florence is no exception. Marines take care of each other, and I will expend every available resource to make sure that happens.”

The decision was made as commanders at several other military bases in the Carolinas ordered mandatory evacuations, and as the projected path of Florence shows it passing right near Camp Lejeune, on the coast about 45 miles northeast of Wilmington. Numerous parents and spouses took to social media to express outrage about the decision, saying that it could be dangerous and complicated hurricane preparation for Marines who have families in the area.

Alford issued another Facebook statement Tuesday night, rebutting comments that his decision was made because federal money wasn’t available to evacuate the base.

“Let me be clear, the decision NOT to mandate evacuation was made after my assessment of the situation,” he said. “As mentioned in my earlier statement, this base is well-prepared to face the oncoming storm. The commands and personnel who remain are well-postured to react to situations and will be working together, like Marines always do in battle, to get through Hurricane Florence.”

Alford added that Marines who decided that they would rather leave were allowed to do so. Some Marines, he added, have nowhere to go, or vehicle to get there, “so we will take care of them here aboard the base.”

Shelters for Marines and their families were expected to open at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Camp Lejeune and a smaller base nearby, Marine Corps Air Station New River. People using them are asked to bring a three-day supply of food for each person, along with supplies such as diapers and toiletries. Marine officials warned that the conditions will not be comfortable.

“If you plan on seeking shelter at any of these locations, our shelters have generator power for lighting, but not necessarily air conditioning so you may be warm and uncomfortable, but safe,” said a statement issued on Facebook on Wednesday. “You will be with total strangers in close quarters under less than ideal conditions. There are rules and quiet hours in shelters. You will be required to supervise your children and are responsible for their behavior.”


Dan Lamothe covers the Pentagon and the U.S. military for The Washington Post. He joined the newspaper in 2014. He has covered the military for more than a decade, embedding with U.S. troops everywhere from the battlefields of Afghanistan to the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean.

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