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Airport to invest in equipment to de-ice runways

  • Snow and ice from a winter storm blankets the runway at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport last week. (Photo courtesy of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport)

Winter Storm Grayson dumped just less than three inches of snow at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport last week and shut down runways for more than a day, according to Savannah Airport Commission executive director Greg Kelly.

During the commission’s monthly meeting on Friday, Kelly reported that the cost of the shutdown isn’t yet known, but the runways were closed for a total of about 30 hours last week as the Coastal Empire was hit with freezing rain and snow.

Crews first closed the runways around 9 a.m. Wednesday and reopened them shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday.

“What we experienced out here was about two to two and a half inches of snow and freezing rain before that,” Kelly told the board.

“… Looking at the forecast the following day we had a good seven to eight hours of temperatures in the 40s with sun, which was favorable to cause the melting and we were able to reopen the runways about 30 hours after closure.”

Kelly said the airport was fortunate during the storm thanks in large part to dedicated crew and employees; however, he recommended that the airport invest in specialty equipment and chemicals to de-ice runways during future winter weather events since typical plows and salt and sand can’t be used on runways.

“Things happen that require employees to respond, react and perform duties that are not necessarily in their job description and this is one of those events where our employees rose to the occasion…,” Kelly said.

“Now I think it’s our job to provide more equipment, materials and resources that will allow them to do that job moving forward.”

Another record year

Prior to the storm the airport finished 2017 on a high note recording another record year for both incoming and departing travelers, with both numbers outpacing 2016.

Overall, the airport recorded 1,228,761 departing passengers in 2017, which was an increase of 12.81 percent year-over-year.

Delta Airlines lead the way with 493,577 travelers, which was an increase of just under 4 percent compared to 2016.

American Airlines was second with 301,844 people, a 14 percent increase over 2016.

Incoming passenger numbers were up year-over-year 12.7 percent with 1,234,120 travelers recorded. Delta and American again took the first and second spots with 501,446 and 301,862 travelers, respectively.

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