WASHINGTON The U.S. Navy on Friday ordered all ships in the Norfolk, Virginia, area - including the nuclear-powered USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier - out to sea beyond the reach of approaching Hurricane Sandy.
It was just one of the storm precautions being announced by the Pentagon, which said around 61,000 members of the National Guard were ready to respond, if needed.
Sandy, dubbed a "Frankenstorm" by one government forecaster, has begun merging with a polar air mass over the eastern United States, potentially spawning a hybrid super-storm that could wreak havoc along the U.S. East Coast.
On its current projected track, government forecasters said Sandy could make landfall early next week anywhere between Virginia, Maryland or Delaware up through New York or southern New England.
The commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, Admiral Bill Gortney, ordered more than two dozen ships including the Truman to "sortie" out to sea beyond the path of the storm between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
"Based on the current track of the storm, we made the decision to begin to sortie the fleet," Gortney said in a statement. "The current timeline allows them enough time to transit safely out of the path of the storm."
The Navy said ships in port that are unable to sortie could take precautions like adding additional mooring and storm lines and disconnecting shore power cables.
The Pentagon said 61,000 members of the National Guard were available to 12 states and the District of Columbia, if needed.
This has the potential to be a dangerous storm, including the national capital region," Pentagon spokesman George Little said, adding that people needed to follow instructions from local emergency managers as the storm approaches the East Coast.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart)