U.S. military preparations for Hurricane Irma now include four Navy ships and thousands of troops

The U.S. military began preparing in earnest for Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, readying four Navy ships for potential disaster relief while moving aircraft and U.S. troops in advance of the arrival of the Category 5 storm.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has approved the use of the USS Oak Hill and the USS Kearsarge, amphibious ships now off Florida’s east coast, if help is requested from Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), said Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. The ships were originally deployed late last month with hundreds of Marines and sailors aboard to respond to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but could instead be sent to Florida.

The Navy also is preparing to dispatch a second contingent of amphibious ships, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS New York, if they are needed. They have departed Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., to be loaded with disaster-relief equipment in Norfolk, said a Navy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations. Maj. Brian Block, a Marine Corps spokesman, said that about 260 Marines will embark aboard the Iwo Jima.




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