1 Pensacola Regional Airport Hurricane Ivan Damage, Impact, Recovery A Chronicle of Nine Days in September September 15 24, 2004
2 Preparations and Airport Closure Preparations for Hurricane Ivan began with tenant meetings and various agency briefings on Friday September 10. Preparedness efforts continued in earnest beginning Monday, September 13 with implementation of the airport s pre-organized Destructive Weather Plan. Terminal building closed Wednesday, September 15 at 8:00am to the public and all non-essential personnel. Concrete barricades were deployed at all roadways, police manned checkpoints. Weather conditions deteriorated Wednesday afternoon to the extent that FAR Part 139 conditions could not be guaranteed because of flooding and debris on the movement areas. Airport was NOTAMed closed at 3:30pm. The Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) was evacuated earlier due to high winds, TRACON closes giving airspace to Jacksonville Center. Area loses commercial power and critical systems rely on emergency generators.
3 Airport Damage
4 Terminal Damage
5 Damage Sustained at Pensacola Regional Airport Trees, light fixtures begin to fall on perimeter fence and vehicles around 11:30 pm on Wednesday night. Terminal and other buildings begin experiencing substantial roof leaks at 9:50pm. By 11:18pm, Airport Police units observe two t-hangars destroyed on the North ramp with aircraft damage. Almost simultaneously, at 11:19pm the ceiling and recessed light fixtures of gates 9 through 12 is observed falling by inside police units. At 44 minutes after midnight, frantic FAA personnel and their families who sought shelter in the TRACON building report that the south edge of the roof is peeling away. Large air conditioning units are falling onto cars in the parking lot. Occupants of the building seek shelter in the lower level hallways. All police units had been recalled earlier as it was unsafe and nearly impossible to be in a vehicle retrieving the TRACON occupants was no longer an option. By 1am early Thursday morning, wind velocity and rain would not allow a person to simply walk outside. An attempt to reach the terminal generator room that was flooding earlier had to be aborted. At 2:03am, a 30 foot wall section of the concourse separated from the building and fell to the ramp. Documented wind speed at 2:35am was mph. By 2:49am, substantial flooding inside the terminal building was evident. Wet ceiling tiles began to fail throughout the facility causing major water damage to the gift shops and restaurant kitchen. Airport personnel deploy pre-positioned trash cans attempting to contain waterfall like leaks. At 3:17am, CCTV cameras capture the ceiling of the sky bridge in front of the terminal fail, blowing debris throughout the entry curbside. Glass and metal doors alike begin to blow off their hinges and tracks. Airport personnel scramble to secure them. By 4:00am, numerous objects such as metal roof flashing, signs, light posts were flying through the low visibility air with tremendous velocity. These objects along with gravel from roofs became projectiles that damaged the ARFF station skylight and nearby vehicle windows. Dawn s first light, between 6:20am and 7:00am, disclosed the extent of damage elsewhere: Windows of the old tower blown out, major damage to Lifeguard and Southern Company hangars, total destruction of 4 t-hangars of which 3 single aircraft were damaged, destruction of maintenance storage buildings, several guidance signs, large segments of perimeter fence, and near removal of entire roofs at many large buildings including the terminal.
8 Community Destruction
11 Recovery Immediately Begins After being ravaged by high winds sustained above 130 mph with area gusts in excess of 170 mph, airport management traveled by vehicle to the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center while three police officers and two operations dispatchers manned their positions as they did throughout the night and the storm at the airport. Instruction was given by City and County Government leaders to open the airport as quickly as possible in order to facilitate emergency aircraft operations. Immediate inspection of the operating environment and repair was accomplished as storm conditions subsided. At 12:48pm Thursday afternoon, runway 17/35, Taxiway Alpha, and a previously closed portion of Runway 8/26 and Taxiway Bravo was opened to emergency relief aircraft only. A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) was placed over the Pensacola area airspace. Soon thereafter, Pensacola Regional as the only facility in the region able to support aircraft began receiving Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters with medical evacuees. Because roads and highways were initially impassable due to fallen trees and washed away bridges, PNS was designated as the primary staging area for disaster relief supplies. A team of several hundred National Guardsmen arrived and established a self-contained base camp in order to off load and deliver basic necessities such as food and water. Seventy plus members of the Virginia Air National Guard (203 rd Red Horse Squadron) with heavy equipment began clearing debris from the airfield, ramps, perimeter, and landside. Florida National Guard with other statewide law enforcement units assumed control of the airport s nine mile perimeter from the Airport Police who maintained its integrity throughout the storm even though large sections of the fence were destroyed. Emergency generators were deployed to power fuel farm.
12 Community Aid Our First Operational Mission Because of the open runway, established helicopter landing zones, available fuel and ground support, and secure perimeter, PNS quickly became the logistical hub for all disaster relief materials air and ground.
13 A mixture of more than six C-17 and nineteen C-130 aircraft began major offload operations. 24 various civilian and military helicopters were based and conducted numerous missions from PNS on a 24/7 basis. Prior permission (PPR) was given to over 219 aircraft over a four day period. Over 150 National Guard and Air Force personnel staffed the off load area and camped on closed runways. Convoy routes were established and perimeter gates deconstructed so to facilitate over 400 semi trailers nightly for day time deployment into the community. The airport was the primary logistical base for community relief during the first four days after the hurricane.
14 Beginning the Road to Commercial Operations Engineering and Damage Assessment A six member team composed of structural, mechanical, electrical, roofing and civil engineers from the airport s contractual engineering firm Reynolds, Smith, and Hills (RS&H) voluntarily mobilized from Jacksonville, Florida on September 17 and began their comprehensive damage evaluation one day later. This self contained team worked around the clock for two days in order to verify that the terminal building, TRACON, fire station, and maintenance buildings were structurally safe and that such buildings were conducive for eventual occupancy. At the conclusion of their assessment, even though none of the main buildings sustained structural damage, impact to airport owned structures alone was estimated at $6.8 million. A recovery plan was formulized with maintenance staff and the goal to reopen the facility to commercial activity was set for the morning of Friday, September 24 with RON aircraft arriving Thursday night. Pensacola Regional was loosing nearly $50, a day in revenue while encompassing the expense of recovery operations.
15 Assistance From Other Airports Within the first 24 hours in recovering from the storm while tropical force winds were still present, help from other airports began to arrive. Desperately needed materials such as food, water, repair materials, and mobile infrastructure such as generators arrived with a self sufficient task force of knowledgeable and skilled personnel. These dedicated individuals began making improvements as soon as they arrived and were exceptionally efficient due to their familiarity with similar airport systems. Miami International Airport (MIA) Mike Handrahan (Ops Manager) Mario Ellis (Dispatcher) Jack Thomas (Electrician) Savanna International Airport (SAV) Fred McCosby (Maintenance Supervisor) Rick Adams (Maintenance Technician) Henry Quiroz (Maintenance Technician) Thurman Johnson (Maintenance Technician) Henry Nelms (Maintenance Technician) Ken Cremans (Maintenance Technician) Rich Vargas (Maintenance Technician) Panama City Bay County International Airport (PFN) Doug Bastendorf (Police) Darrel Wise (ARFF) Jerry Swearingen (ARFF) Jabo Jackson (Maintenance) Michael Tate (Maintenance) URS Corporation Sam Rhoades (Engineering / Contractor Management) Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) Marcus Rau (Mechanic) Charles Wilson (Electrician) Jay Smaglis (Electrician) Brunswick Golden Isles Airport (BQK) Vernon Bessing, Jr. (Maintenance Technician) Kim Jones (Maintenance Technician) Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) Lynn Devon (Ops Manager) George Osborne (Police) Gary Heil (Police) Mobile Airport Authority (MOB) Ken Lee (Electrician) Latrina Sargent (Dispatcher) Christina Brazell (Dispatcher) New Orleans International Airport (MSY) Semi of building materials and relief supplies A total of twenty-seven professionals from seven airports provided aid over a ten day period. This relief was invaluable to PNS staff members who were exhausted from working through the storm, sleeping at the airport, and prioritizing the needs of the airport over their personal circumstances. Because of this assistance, PNS staff were able to eventually stand down, take care of personal issues, and recharge for the long road of recovery ahead.
16 Beginning the Road to Commercial Operations Through the hard work and dedication of the airport maintenance staff, volunteer airport personnel, and contractual repair companies, massive amounts of electrical damage, water removal, debris cleaning, and system repairs were accomplished to the extent that PNS was able to facilitate commercial activity. Patrons were allowed to retrieve their personal vehicles parked in the garage 3 days after the storm on Monday, September 20. The airfield was opened to all general aviation in addition to existing military operations the next day on September 21. Airfield conditions exceed FAR 139 operating certificate criteria. Non-sterile areas of the terminal building were opened to rental car customers two days later on September 22 and DHL operates first cargo flight, a DC-9, arriving Wednesday morning.
17 All airfield restrictions were lifted at midnight Thursday / Friday morning, on September 24. Commercial flight activities resumed Friday morning with limited RONs due to unavailable hotel space for overnight flight crews. Terminal services including restaurants and gift shops resume normal schedule. TSA deploys additional contingency staffing to supplement screening capabilities. All screening equipment is functional and passengers experience no delays. FAA Air Traffic Control Facilities are wounded but regardless of working environment, the tower resumes full operational hours and TRACON begins providing services. Although every city owned building sustained damage and most repairs were temporary, Pensacola Regional Airport and its dedicated employees gave the community one of the first symbols of hope and indications of normality. The ability to freely travel through their airport.
18 A Special Thank You To: The dedicated men and women that worked so hard to get Pensacola Regional Airport up and running again. The professionals at RS&H, who without being asked, organized a recovery team and quantified the engineering details towards a plan for recovery. Our fellow airport comrades who put their own business on hold in order to help us recover. The 203 rd Red Horse Squadron of the Virginia Air National Guard who immediately mobilized and cleaned up the mess that Ivan left. And the Pensacola Police Department video production staff for technical assistance in documenting the impact of Hurricane Ivan.
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