As of 6 pm on Thursday (Sept. 29), Florida officials had reported nine deaths directly attributed to Hurricane Ian, widely cited as among the five worst storms in the state’s history. Not unexpectedly, most were on the west coast of the state, which took the brunt of the Category 4 storm’s landfall.
Airports in harm’s way suffered varying degrees of damage. The worst devastation, which occurred at Miami-area North Perry Airport, ironically came not from the hurricane, per se, but rather from a tornado spawned by convective bands associated with the widespread storm system. Airports on the west coast placed their primary focus on support for emergency and humanitarian operations.
Starting with the Fort Myers area, which topped most news for the violence of the storm damage, the three airports that serve the area include Southwest Florida International (KRSW), GA-centric Page Field (KFMY) and Punta Gorda (KPGD). As of Thursday evening, KRSW remains closed, with operations expected to restart on Oct. 7. No aircraft were reported damaged. Likewise, no aircraft were damaged at KFMY. The airport remains closed to GA operations, but Vicki Moreland, chief communications and marketing officer, told AVweb the reason was the focus on supporting emergency and humanitarian flights. She also cited the lack of electric power and potable water, adding that the Lee County government website was providing timely updates on the status of countywide infrastructure repairs.
The person who answered the phone at Punta Gorda Airport told AVweb the airport infrastructure was in good shape and open to GA operations, though most activity over the past few days has involved military and emergency operations. He referred further questions about aircraft and infrastructure damage to the airport’s communications officer, who (understandably) did not answer a phone message as of press time.
The website associated with Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (KSRQ) reported that personnel were “assessing damage and making repairs,” adding that operations were expected to restart at 8:00 pm Thursday evening (Sept. 29). Meanwhile, at Naples, which suffered among the most devastating flooding associated with Hurricane Ian, the concise phone message at Naples Municipal Airport (KAPF) reported that the airport will remain closed “until further notice,” adding, “Do not drive to the airport.”
Venice Airport, situated on the Gulf between Sarasota and Ft. Myers, suffered significant damage to GA T-hangars, although the damage wasn’t as extensive as originally feared. Despite being in the eyewall of Ian for several hours, there was no sign of flooding, probably because the wind in the northern portion of the storm was out of the east, driving the water out of the bays and tributaries rather than into low-lying land. Several rows of hangars were heavily damaged and some were destroyed, according to photos of the airport. Some aircraft were still inside the structures, but it’s not known if they were damaged by missile hits from debris. According to NWS AWOS data, the peak wind at Venice was 82 MPH at 3:25 p.m. Wednesday as the storm made landfall farther south near Cape Coral. Sarasota had 77 MPH, Punta Gorda to the south had 109 MPH and Ft. Myers had 92 MPH.
Some aircraft at Venice were heavily damaged or destroyed, although the total isn’t known. There was no apparent flooding. The airport borders both the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway. Dan Gulandri, maintenance manager for Sarasota Avionics [located at KVNC], told AVweb that both of the company’s hangars survived the storm, although one had minor damage and water intrusion. AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli, who bases a J-3 at Venice, reported that the hangar and airplane appeared to be undamaged, although one hangar at the end of the same row was heavily damaged. As of Friday morning, the airport remained closed and a TFR is in effect for the area.
This story will be updated as more information comes in.
Paul Bertorelli contributed to this report.