Houston Community News >>

10/7/2008 Houston-- As Hurricane Ike flew through the Houston area, he made sure to visit the city’s three airports, leaving a reported $23 million worth of damages.

During the early morning hours of Saturday, September 13, 2008, the combination of hurricane force winds, heavy rainfall and the extensive duration of the storm that delivered a powerful punch to the city of Houston, left the Houston Airport System (HAS) to deal with many challenges as a result of the catastrophic events.

Hangars were destroyed, roads were flooded, trains in the airports were halted and essential personnel worked diligently to make sure the airports operated as smoothly as possible.

“We know we are in a hurricane area and we’ve made sure to build to withstand the damages that can come from hurricane forces,” says Rick Vacar, Houston Airport System director. “We have a total of $23 million in damages to our three airports, but we were not disabled in any way thanks to our dedicated employees, airline partners and other contractors we work with.”

The storm that created city-wide turmoil and left hundreds of thousands of Houston-area citizens without power for weeks was quite a challenge to all, but thankfully HAS was prepared.

“The success of operating the airports so quickly had to do with the preparations we took before the hurricane,” says Vacar. “I am very pleased with the outstanding job my staff did in the preparation phase and their help assisting during and after the storm, not only to the outside agencies, but to fellow HAS employees as well.”

Just before the Category 2 hurricane hit the Houston-area, the local aviation community consisting of HAS employees, airline employees, federal employees and construction contractors went into preparation mode.

Teams began securing jet bridges to avoid extensive damage, airlines flew their entire fleet out of Houston and removed equipment from the ramps, satellites and antennas were removed from rooftops and even bales of hay were placed in front of windows to avoid breakage.

Even though these preparations took place along with others, damage was still done and it’s estimated that it will take up to six to eight months to compete all of the repairs caused by Ike.

At George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) more than 40 gates lost electrical power, glass shattered in windows leading up to the train area for the Automated People Movers (APM) and the Inter-terminal trains had minor damage, jet bridges were damaged, and there was structural and water damage throughout the airport’s five terminals.

At William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) the terminal also lost power and the hurricane force winds damaged roofs on many buildings, which caused water leaks throughout the terminal. Other damage reported included the destruction of the perimeter fence and a fabric awning at the passenger drop off area.

Ellington Airport (EFD), which experienced winds up to 144 mph, lost a roof off of Southwest Services, a fixed based operator located at EFD, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), lost the Guppy hangar and T-38 hangars.

Though damage was done, EFD was fully operational that Saturday afternoon. By the next Monday, September 15th, both IAH and HOU were operating flights in and out of Houston.

All three airports are fully operational, but it will be months before everything is back to normal.