Tyndall Air Force Base
A damaged airplane hanger is seen on the grounds of Tyndall Air Force Base after Hurricane Michael passed through the area in Mexico Beach, Florida, Oct. 12, 2018. Getty Images/ Joe Raedle

Hurricane Michael, which made landfall in Florida on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm and later tore through Georgia and the Carolinas, killing 19 people, wrought considerable damages to the Tyndall Air Force Base, located 12 miles east of Panama City, Florida.

The base was visually inspected post-storm by Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein, Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright on Sunday, after which they held a press conference to assure the nation that the damages incurred due to the storm could be fixed in the long term.

“Our ability to do the nation’s business has not been significantly affected by this storm,” Goldfein said, Pensacola News Journal reported.

The Tyndall base houses the F-22 Raptor, the most sophisticated fighter jet in the Pentagon's arsenal and while many of the aircraft were evacuated in the wake of the storm, not all of them were taken out of the base. Aerial pictures of the base suggested that the planes left behind in the facility took a rough beating in the storm.

While Goldfein did not confirm how many F-22s were left behind in the base’s hanger during the storm, initial reports suggested as many as 17 of the fighter jets had sustained considerable damages due to the storm.

However, Lara Seligman, a correspondent with Foreign Policy, who spoke to an Air Force official, said the department had concluded after assessing the damage at Tyndall that all aircraft, including F-22s that weathered the storm, were intact and initial indications are “promising.”

The official added that as the F-22s “were secured in the highest storm rated hangars,” the damage was not as bad as they had anticipated. However, experts still had to conduct “detailed maintenance assessments” before the Air Force could determine whether the damages to the aircraft could be mended.

However, Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) first-hand assessment of the base was a lot grimmer than the account given by the Air Force leadership.

“Tyndall has been destroyed,” he told News Herald in a telephonic interview. “The older buildings will have to be razed and rebuilt. The newer structures on the base that have survived the monster storm will need substantial repairs.”

However, he assured that news reports saying that the base will be forced to close after the damages incurred from the storm was “unfounded.” Nelson added that he expected Tyndall to be rebuilt as “an Air Force base of the future” as he did not anticipate any hurdles in procuring the necessary resources and funds for rebuilding the entire base.

However, for now, Nelson said the prime focus was to ensure that the base was safe for the thousands of air force personnel and their families who had to evacuate the facility before the storm.

″[T]he good news is military commanders successfully evacuated 11,000 base personnel and their families in advance of the unprecedentedly strong storm,” Nelson said in a statement.

Wilson echoed Nelson’s concern during Sunday’s press conference. “Our first priority now is our airmen and their families,” he said. He added that while families could return to the area, they were advised to stay clear of the base housing and facilities until they were deemed safe.