Baton Rouge Traffic Still Double The Usual...

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A Tale From The Tower

As tough as things got in the two weeks following Katrina's assault on the Gulf Coast, as hard as the work was, however long the hours and thick the traffic and the stress of constantly revamping procedures trying to make it all work, "It felt good to do it," air traffic controller Nic Bordelon told AVweb yesterday. "It was our contribution to the relief effort," he says, but besides that, it was a "pride thing." For a couple of weeks little podunk Baton Rouge was handling almost as many operations per day as JFK ... up to 1,400 or 1,600 and more, up from the usual 300 or so on a typical day, Bordelon said. "That's a lot of traffic." A lot of helicopters flew in -- 40 or 50 UH-50s, and a lot of civilian helicopters, too, "JetRangers and things we'd never seen here before," Bordelon said. "They were all over the place." Taxiways became parking areas. President Bush flew in once or twice, Bordelon said, but even that didn't slow things down. John Travolta flew in his 707 full of relief supplies. From all over, 737s, DC9s, MD80s, C130s, full of supplies, lined up to land.

At the height of the storm, the tower lost electricity overnight, Bordelon said, but it was back by the next morning. The homes of controllers who work at the facility all are intact, he said, though some lost power for up to four days. In the first couple of days after the storm, he and two other BTR staffers went to New Orleans to help out, but were quickly recalled when traffic began to mount at Baton Rouge.