and NBC News
updated 9/18/2004 10:45:57 AM ET 2004-09-18T14:45:57

Hurricane Ivan inflicted “catastrophic” damage on the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida and the base may not reopen for two weeks, Navy officials told NBC News on Friday.

A spokesman for the Navy said that Ivan the caused “hundreds of millions of dollars” in damage at the historic 82-acre base, damaging every building and destroying several edifices on the grounds.

At the base hospital alone, the storm left several holes in the roof and caused an estimated $200,000 to $500,000 in damage. The 19 patients were not injured, having been moved by medical personnel to a safe location inside the building.

At least 480 sailors were evacuated and most of the base’s aircraft were flown inland before the storm to avoid potential damage before Ivan stormed ashore.

There were no reports of injuries among the personnel who stayed at the base during the storm, the officials said.

The Tampa Tribune reported that the evacuated sailors went to work at a nearby shelter when they arrived, carrying residents' belongings from their cars, helping the elderly and entertaining children.

"Since I'm here, I'm gonna help out," the newspaper quoted Airman Ray Eu as saying. "Honor, courage, commitment."

Pensacola is the Navy's traditional home of naval aviation and thousands of pilots receive training there each year.

Created in 1913, the facility was the United States' first permanent naval air station, the first Navy pilot training center and the first naval installation to send pilots into combat and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

NBC News Producer Scott Foster and's Mike Brunker contributed to this report.


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