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Aerial view of the Hurricane Florence-funded trestle bridge replacement project at White Oak River in Stella, North Carolina. The White Oak River trestle bridge is an integral component in the 34-mile rail line that moves heavy military equipment and supplies between Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Four years ago, the Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune area experienced the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the Carolinas. Today, $3.6 billion in new construction and repairs are flourishing across the base and air stations with a heavy emphasis on ensuring the new infrastructure is able to withstand future weather events.

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Hurricane Florence, Four Years Later: What’s Been Done, What’s Next

26 Sep 2022 | Nat Fahy and Victoria Long Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

Four years ago, the Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune area experienced the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the Carolinas. Making landfall near Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington, North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2018, Hurricane Florence brought high winds, a storm surge of 13 feet and record-breaking rainfall totaling nearly 36 inches. With the storm moving as slow as two miles per hour, it left a path of devastation across 14,000 square miles, dumping an estimated 10 trillion gallons of water across the region.

“The immediate impacts to installation facilities took weeks to assess and were not immediately known,” said Wayne Herbert, operations officer, Marine Corps Installations East (MCIEAST)-MCB Camp Lejeune. “Water intrusion was the biggest impact, causing damage to roofs, ceilings, insulation, heating and air conditioning systems and utilities.”

Across MCB Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, 388 buildings sustained roof damage, 319 facilities experienced interior damage, including 41 buildings that needed HVAC repairs and 68 additional facilities that required full building renovations. Nearly 116 trailers were brought in for temporary work areas. Additionally, the excessive flooding resulted in 70 culvert washouts on roads and trails, and significant damage to two railroad trestles, Onslow Beach Bridge, the flight line and hangar doors on MCAS New River.

Much like the broader communities of North Carolina, privatized base housing sustained significant damage. Of the nearly 6,200 homes served by Atlantic Marine Corps Communities (AMCC) across MCB Camp Lejeune, MCAS New River and MCAS Cherry Point, more than 60% of them sustained damage of varying degrees, leaving installation communities with many uninhabitable homes which necessitated the relocation of hundreds of families.

By the end of 2019, AMCC had completed repairs to over 3,000 homes and demolished more than 30 of the most severely damaged homes. “Since then, we have repaired approximately 150 more homes and anticipate completing repairs to the nearly 150 homes remaining by spring of 2023,” said Staci Burton, marketing manager with AMCC. “In the future, our goal is to demolish the final 200 uninhabitable homes.”

Today, $3.6 billion in new construction and repairs are flourishing across the base and air stations with a heavy emphasis on ensuring the new infrastructure is able to withstand future weather events. All buildings that sustained roof damage now have standing-seam metal roofs. Over 56% of the contracted building repairs are complete, with the rest of the renovations scheduled to be finished by next fall.

The first new building scheduled to be completed will be a state-of-the-art fire station located at Courthouse Bay, slated for spring of 2023. Located well away from the flood plain, it will feature numerous upgrades to include six drive-through bays and serve as a destructive weather shelter for firefighters. According to MCB Camp Lejeune Fire Chief Glenn Zurek, two other fire stations at Midway Park and Paradise Point that sustained major water intrusion are in the process of wrapping up repairs sometime this fall. Firefighters staffing these stations are occupying temporary trailers to make room for repair efforts, but thankfully, response times have not been compromised. “We move the fire trucks out during the day to accommodate the renovations underway and put them back in the garages at night,” said Zurek.

Another building expected to come online in spring of 2023 is a simulation center for II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). The $40 million, 54,000 square foot-facility will be the support hub for three simulation programs of record. These include the provision of a deployable suite of computers containing simulation training a unit would take with them, a fire and maneuver trainer that supports units ranging in size from individual to regimental staffs and a Marine Air-Ground Task Force Tactical Warfare Simulation to exercise staff training across geographic distributed areas in preparation for MEF and joint task force certification exercises. “(This building) is the first purpose-built simulation facility on Camp Lejeune,” said Trey Mangus, deputy director, II MEF G-37 Simulation Department. “It is being built with the understanding that simulations are going to be a growing and evolving training tool in the Marine Corps and joint forces.”

Other Florence-financed replacement buildings and infrastructure will start to come online throughout 2023 and conclude in 2025. These will include headquarters buildings, school houses, mess halls and new facilities for Naval Criminal Investigation Services, Legal Services Support Section-East, the Provost Marshal’s Office, as well as a combined school house and training hangar for the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit New River and a bachelor enlisted quarters on MCAS New River. Two railroad trestles over the White Oak River and Queens Creek River are also being replaced. These bridges, scheduled to be complete in the spring of 2024, will accommodate the rail transport of equipment and supplies between MCB Camp Lejeune and MCAS Cherry Point. The 70-year-old swing bridge at Onslow Beach that accommodated boat traffic in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is also being replaced by a single leaf Bascule bridge (levered vertical platform) with a projected completion date in the spring of 2025.

“By 2025, these installations will have undergone one of the most extensive transformations in their proud history,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Niebel, commanding general, MCIEAST-MCB Camp Lejeune. “Every facility, every structure will be designed to make sure our warfighters, families and base employees have optimal spaces to live, work and train to ensure a ready force.”

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