One of the U.S. Navy warships sent out to sea to escape the destruction of Hurricane Sandy is now en route to New York and New Jersey to assist with rescue and relief efforts.
The Navy sent the USS San Antonio and the USS Carter Hall to the coasts of New York and New Jersey, Bloomberg.com reports, where hundreds of thousands of residents still do not have power. They sail with the USS Wasp, based out of Norfolk, Va., one of at least nine ships the Navy dispatched to the open ocean to evade the path of Hurricane Sandy.
"These ships have not been officially tasked to provide support," wrote Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy's top spokesman, in a blog post on Wednesday. "These decisions provide national and local decision makers maximum flexibility and options should there be a need for Navy support. Most importantly, this will allow our forces to be best postured to minimize the amount of time it will take these forces to get on station if tasked."
The Wasp, San Antonio and Carter Hall are all multipurpose amphibious assault ships, tasked with transporting ground forces for expeditionary missions. The San Antonio, designed to also serve as a transport dock, is the first of twelve ships in the new San Antonio Class. The Carter Hall is a dock landing ship, which supports landing crafts and helicopters.
All of these vessels can support rescue equipment, including Army and Navy helicopters, Bloomberg reports.
On Thursday morning, an unmarked U.S. government ship was one of the only vessels heading toward New York City's Lower Bay, according to shipping tracker MarineTraffic.com. It is unclear if this is one of the three ships, but it did start it's current northwesterly track almost exactly due east of Norfolk, Va., which is also it's last known port.
Track its progress: MarineTraffic.com/ais/
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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.