Being more than two hours from the coast doesn’t mean that we’re out of reach from hurricanes. The infamous hurricanes Hazel and Fran along with Bonnie, Ernesto, Floyd and a few others have also paid the Research Triangle Region a visit.
Just as we prepare for winter weather and summer thunderstorms, RDU has detailed hurricane plans. With Arthur likely to impact the coast this weekend, it is a great time for us to review our preparations for tropical systems. However, we don’t expect many (if any) impacts from this storm.
We plan for two main scenarios with incredibly detailed plans. Here, I’m highlighting just a few of the things that we do to ensure your safety, secure our property and help return RDU to normal operations.
When a tropical system is about 72 hours from having a possible direct impact, the airport will convene a meeting with all airport tenants. This includes the airlines, shops and restaurants, airport staff, government agencies (like the FAA and TSA) and others who work at the airport.
The meeting brings everyone onto the same page as to the status of the storm, the likelihood of impact and each group’s responsibilities before, during and after the storm. Throughout, the airport operates an emergency operations center to coordinate work and information during the storm.
In the hours leading up to the onset of high winds, trash cans are picked up, outdoor equipment is tied down, generators are tested, back-up water supplies are prepared and airport emergency response vehicles are checked and fueled. Non-emergency vehicles are relocated to the parking garage for shelter.
Each airline makes its own decision about flight operations. If passengers are stuck at RDU, our Guest Services team works alongside the airlines to find accommodations or other travel arrangements for as many of their passengers as possible. Our goal is that no one has to stay in the terminal.
When the storm begins affecting the airport, flight operations may be suspended. Our Guest Services and Shops and Restaurants teams, for example, work to care for any passengers who remain in the terminals. Our Police and Fire-Rescue crews make sure everyone on site remains safe.
As the storm passes, operations, maintenance crews and airlines, among others, work to clear any damage or debris and resume flights and normal operations as quickly as possible.
Planning for an indirect impact is best described by our experience with Hurricane Sandy. We never felt the full force of the storm, but we did care for many passengers who were impacted due to a high number of delays and/or cancellations in the Northeast.
To protect their aircraft, many airlines moved their planes out of the path of the storm. Some of these aircraft were sent to RDU where they stayed until the storm had passed. This strategy allowed the airlines to more quickly resume flights and normal operations at RDU and other airports.
Regardless of the weather, we’re always on duty and ready to serve you at RDU. The best source for flight information should a storm threaten is your airline, but we also post flight status on rdu.com. Also, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+ for news and updates during a storm.