TECH. SGT. SHANE A. CUOMO, U.S. AIR FORCE
A Defense Department employee surveyed Tuesday some of the damage left on Wake Island after Super Typhoon Ioke hit the island Aug. 31. A C-17 Globemaster III from Hickam Air Force Base brought a 53-person team to assess damage left by the typhoon. CLICK FOR LARGE
Hickam team assesses storm damage on Wake
Only about 30 percent of the isle's structures remain fully intact after a super-typhoon
About 70 percent of the buildings on Wake Island were damaged by last month's Super Typhoon Ioke, the biggest in several decades.
Fifty-three Air Force personnel and private contractors, including three who were evacuated from Wake Island last month before Ioke roared through the tiny atoll, returned this week to assess the damage.
They were preceded by the 36th Expeditionary Contingency Response Squadron from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, which landed on Wake Monday and determined that its 10,000-foot runway is intact and operational.
The Air Force, in a written statement, said runway lights were missing, but the island's fuel tanks were secure and there was minor damage to the fuel transfer systems.
Only three of the 31 vehicles used to transport fuels were damaged. Nine other vehicles need minor repairs, and 70 percent of the facilities and buildings were moderately or severely damaged. Many of the buildings were 30 years old.
Although there is no running water, the Air Force said there are about 8,000 gallons that can be purified in storage behind the water plant.
Power lines and backup generators also were damaged by the typhoon, which packed winds of up to 150 mph.
An aerial assessment conducted last weekend by a Coast Guard crew from Barbers Point showed "no observable oil spills or the release of hazardous materials."
Some 188 people were evacuated from Wake on two C-17 Globemaster cargo jets two days before the typhoon swept through Wake. The majority of the evacuees are Thai nationals who work on Wake Island. They are still in Hawaii waiting for clearance to return.
Maj. Clare Reed, Hickam spokeswoman, said the assessment team will help determine the cost of rebuilding the island.
Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Yereance, one of the civil engineer team leaders, said in a written statement that it will be tough to tell how long the assessment will take. All his teams have seen so far is satellite imagery and notes from the response team.
"It could be anywhere from a week or 10 days to a month, possibly, just depending on how much damage is done to the facilities," he said.
"We're anxious to get back and take a look at things and see the damage or problems that we might have that we can't see from the photos," said Jimmie Taylor, who has lived on Wake Island for a year and a half. "We just don't know how much damage there really is."