With No Request from Texas, Relief Ships Wait at Sea
Civilian emergency management officials in Texas have not asked for the resources that are available aboard the U.S. Navy amphibs USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill, and the Navy confirms that the two vessels are awaiting orders. They may alter their destination as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida.
Kearsarge and Oak Hill got under way from Norfolk, Virginia on August 31, bound for Houston. However, without a local request for help, they have no official tasking, and they are now prepositioned at sea to provide relief where needed. In addition to equipment, supplies and transport hovercraft, the Kearsarge carries several hundred Marines, who could join the 16,000 military personnel who are currently helping the response effort in Texas.
According to USNI's fleet tracking chart, the Kearsarge is currently operating off the U.S. East Coast, and would be well positioned in the event that Hurricane Irma should make landfall in Florida. Irma is now a Category 5 hurricane – a "potentially catastrophic" storm – and it could hit the Florida Keys as early as Sunday.
To prepare for the possibility of a two-hurricane disaster response, the Navy says that it has ordered the amphibs USS Iwo Jima and USS New York to head to Norfolk for supplies in the event that more relief support is needed.
USS Iwo Jima and USS Kearsarge are Wasp-class amphibs, the largest amphibious assault vessels in the world. USS Oak Hill is a Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship assigned to the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group. USS New York is a newer San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock christened in 2008; she survived Hurricane Katrina during her construction at Avondale Shipyard.