S. Florida Airports Starting to Open, But No Guarantee of Normalcy

The last time that severe weather conditions stopped the planes flying for any amount of time at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was 55 years ago when Hurricane King shut it down, airport officials said Tuesday.

And the longest time the airport was closed in recent memory was after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Airport officials offered no guarantees, but were hopeful it would reopen this morning, said Steve Belleme, an airport spokesman. Transportation Safety Administration workers have been told to report to work at 7 a.m. with the hope that flights can resume later.

Passengers cannot be accommodated in the terminals unless there is running water to flush the toilets and electricity to power the lighting and run security operations, he said.

The advice for would-be travelers is to check with your airline before going to the airport, county and airline officials said.

Terminal roofs suffered extensive damage, Belleme said, particularly Terminal 4, which he described as "trashed."

There was a lot of damage on the north and western sides of the airport, he said. The FedEx building lost much of its roof and the doors on many of the smaller general aviation hangars were missing and some planes were damaged, Belleme said.

One runway, 9R/27L reopened about 11 a.m. Tuesday and was accepting smaller planes.

Palm Beach International Airport reopened at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Miami International Airport was able to reopen at noon Tuesday, said airport spokeswoman Trenae Floyd. The first flight arrived just after 5 p.m. Not all airlines will be fully operational and "We're still asking people to please, please consult their airline before coming to the airport," Floyd said.

Miami airport appears to have suffered more damage this time than during Hurricane Andrew, she said. Roofs broke open in several places and 39 of the 98 jet bridges, which connect the terminals to the planes, were damaged.

Delta Air Lines was hoping to resume flights at the airport in Fort Lauderdale about 10 a.m. today, said spokesman Anthony Black. The airline will operate on a limited schedule at first and then gradually ramp up, he said.

"The situation is all based on the airport's ability to handle traffic," Black said "Wednesday usually has a lighter flight load than normal, which we hope will allow us to accommodate more of the people who are trying to get in or get out."

The manager of Fort Lauderdale's control tower, Robert Berlucchi, said the airport was open to helicopter traffic and smaller planes Tuesday. Helicopters used by police, search and rescue teams, medical rescue personnel and media outlets used the airport, he said.

"We had limited helicopter activity [Monday] night and quite a bit [Tuesday]," he said

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