Windstorm Wrecks Planes, Closes Anchorage Airport

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Dozens of light planes were damaged or wrecked and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) was closed for the first time in 10 years (barring 9/11) after hurricane-force winds blasted the area last Wednesday. Sustained winds as high as 95 knots forced evacuation of the airport tower and flipped over light aircraft, ski-equipped planes and floatplanes. "At the peak it was a safety hazard to even drive down the runway, much less fly," ANC spokesman Rich Wilson told Aviation News Alaska. Much of the GA carnage was at the ski and floatplane base at Lake Hood where at least 31 light aircraft were damaged or flipped. Owners worked through the night securing their aircraft. Some used cars and trucks as windbreaks and anchors. "I just keep adding more ropes," Cessna 180 owner Norm Lee told the Anchorage Daily News. The wind also took its toll on airport facilities. In addition to being closed for nine hours (the first-ever weather closure), ANC suffered nearly $500,000 in structural and equipment damage. Fifteen airline flights had to be diverted to Fairbanks. "It was just unprecedented in its intensity and it was sustained," Corky Caldwell, ANC's deputy director of operations, told the Daily News. Total damage hasn't been tallied, yet.