As of noon Saturday, Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station were completely evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, according to an Air Force news release.
Despite the record-breaking storm’s rapid trajectory towards the Florida coast earlier this week, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force still decided to move ahead with the planned launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the mysterious X-37B spaceplane back into orbit. The unmanned space plane is a reusable space craft, and the Air Force has been generally tight-lipped on what exactly its doing up there in the sky, but this was the Falcon 9’s first launch carrying an X-37B.
Following the launch, the Falcon 9 rocket landed safely down at Cape Canaveral, and was recovered and secured by SpaceX personnel.
Immediately following the launch of the Falcon 9, SpaceX and their Air Force partners began securing the launch pads and facilities of Cape Canaveral, which sits near the middle of the Florida coast. According to a 45th Space Wing press release regarding Hurricane Irma prep, Wing personnel assigned to hurricane response teams — which is about 215 people — and their crisis action teams will be riding out the storm in designated safe buildings. They will be tasked with assessing the damage of the storm and making an educated decision about when it will be safe to resume work at Cape Canaveral. “We have a professional team with the right knowledge and expertise to execute what is necessary to ensure the safety of our people, our bases and our assets,” the release reads.
The Air Force said it will also have several hurricane ride-out teams remaining around the region. They are tasked with keeping the bases and all their assets secure, as well as assisting with reconnaissance around the area following the storm. The 45th Space Wing says they plan on keeping lines of communication open throughout Hurricane Irma and following it as recovery begins.
You can follow storm updates from Cape Canaveral and Patrick Air Force Base via its Facebook account, or by texting “follow 45SWAlert” to 40404.
As of Saturday afternoon, it was predicted that the storm will make its way from the Florida Keys up the coast towards Tampa. Winds could be higher than 100 mph could rip through regularly populated areas of Florida’s west coast, with flooding of up to fifteen feet on dry land.