Guantánamo Navy base emerges from Irma ‘relatively unscathed’

Guantánamo Bay Navy base got through Hurricane Irma “relatively unscathed,” the commander said Saturday, but for a few downed trees and power lines.

“So far no damage of any significance has been reported or discovered,” Navy Capt. Dave Culpepper told the roughly 5,500 residents through a midday broadcast on Radio Gitmo. He had earlier decided not to send base residents to hardened shelters after tracks showed the storm going north of the base, and no destructive winds were expected.

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Bay waters were still rough, with 6-foot-swells, requiring no ferry crossings although a smaller utility boat could carry passengers between the Leeward and Windward sides.

“The beaches are all still closed,” Culpepper advised, reporting that after a survey of the damage “tracking nicely to get back into full operations here.”

Culpepper noted that, while the hurricane had passed to the north, windy weather might complicate a flight expected Tuesday connecting the base with Jacksonville, Florida, and Norfolk, Virginia.

He added that his decision to not open shelters on the 45-square-mile base was vindicated — “hindsight tells us we made the right call” — particularly in savings of unnecessary “manpower, effort and the money spent.”

There was no immediate word from the prison spokesman, Navy Cmdr. John Robinson III, on whether the 1,500 or so Detention Center staff and their 41 war on terror detainees also escaped the storm unscathed. Earlier in the week, as the Category 5 hurricane was aimed at Cuba, the Pentagon scrambled a medical team to the base to do surgery on a captive’s spine.

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