Most troops assigned to MacDill Air Force Base were given less than 24 hours to evacuate themselves and their families as tropical storm Idalia threatens a hit on Florida’s gulf coast later this week.

“A mandatory base-wide evacuation order has been issued to be completed by 10:00 a.m. Tues. Aug. 29 for non-mission essential individuals and dependents,” the base announced, saying the evacuation applies to any personnel that live in coastal areas in six counties around the base, specifically Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Pasco and Hernando. Neighborhoods farther inland were exempt under the order.

MacDill is home to two major combatant commands, both of which said they their leadership and operating staffs will move inland during the storm. US Central Command oversees southwest Asia from Kazakstan’s border with Russia to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, while the US Special Operations command overseas special operations units across the military.

A list of base services on MacDill’s Facebook page indicated that nearly all services would be closed Tuesday, with a few services like the commissary and shopette open only Tuesday morning.

Air Force photo

MacDill is highly exposed to flooding and hurricane conditions like wind. The base sits on a peninsula at mouth of Tampa Bay, between Tampa and St. Petersburg. It was under ‘Hurcon 5’ alert Monday, which the base website says means that “destructive winds are possible within 96 hours.”

Troops and families told to leave are authorized to move up to 350 miles, Pentagon officials said.

A National Weather Service bulletin from Monday afternoon said that Idalia is expected to become a “major hurricane” with “life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds” as it approaches Florida later this week. The storm was near Cuba on Monday, moving northward.

Tampa, the NWS said, could see storm surge between 4 to 7 feet.

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