...As GA Assesses Swath Of Damage

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At Lake Wales Airport, about 50 miles south of Orlando, all the hangars were virtually destroyed, contributing writer Tim Kern reported to AVweb yesterday. At Orlando Executive Airport, about 40 small aircraft were torn from their moorings, and Kern was told that no small aircraft on the field escaped damage. Kim Showalter, who with her husband, Bob, owns Showalter Flying Service, told the Orlando Sentinel that damage at the field was the worst since the flying service started in 1945. "We've had strong storms before but nothing like this," she said. At Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach campus, a dozen Skyhawks and a new Diamond were wrecked, Kern said. He also noted that an altimeter kept in his living room normally reads about 140 feet (set to 29.95). Left unadjusted during the storm the ground-bound unit topped out at 1020 feet. "When Hurricane Charley hit Winter Haven with its full force at about 7:30 on the evening of Friday the 13th," says Kern, "it was packing winds well over 100 mph (the nearest reporting anemometer blew away after recording 106) -- damage was widespread and severe."

During the storm, airports became impromptu shelters for thousands of stranded travelers. About 3,000 people weathered the hurricane at Orlando Sanford International Airport. Commercial flights are expected to be back to normal today across the region, but many owners of GA businesses and aircraft in the area will face a longer recovery.