Category 3 Hurricane Harvey forced the Houston Airport System to go into emergency mode last month, with many areas of Texas experiencing more than 50in of rain over a four-day period.
William P Hobby Airport was hit when the hurricane was at its strongest, with canceled flights and sudden flooded roads leaving many passengers and employees stranded at the airport. Maintenance staff worked around the clock to repair leaks caused by the heavy rain, with airport operations teams assisting the airfield and airlines as needed.
Robert Riedle, director of operation for 4 Families, which operates the restaurants at the airport, ensured those stranded were well fed and even prepared food in the kitchens himself.
“We were a team! I have met so many team members that I did not know before, and we truly bonded over this unfortunate time for our city,” he said. “Without us working together, we would not have gotten through it.”
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) was closed to all commercial aircraft operations, but remained open for military and humanitarian flights as a lifeline to the region.
Bush essentially became a civil-military operations center (CMOC0 to the air assets for various federal agencies including the US Air Force, Air National Guard, US Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, and FEMA.
Medical supplies were also routed through the airport and aerial evacuation operations landed at Bush for refueling, crew rest and, in several circumstances, to transport injured civilians to relief hospitals in bordering states.
Ted Kitchens, general manager of George Bush Intercontinental Airport, said, “Once we pivoted our focus to the recovery phase of the crisis, we worked with our tenants and federal law enforcement agencies to quickly address the complex logistics required to ensure that federal agencies would have the resources necessary to perform search and rescue missions.
“This was an unprecedented disaster for our region and nation, and I believe our past training prepared us to accommodate this very important aspect of the emergency operation.
“I am very proud of the professionalism, compassion, humility, and creativity the IAH staff used to solve the numerous operational challenges faced during the storm and am thankful for all the support we received from our fellow business units across the entire airport system.”
Ellington Airport supports the operations of the Texas National Guard. The entire Texas National Guard was activated on August 28 – about 12,000 troops – to conduct search and rescue operations. Evacuees were brought to the airport, where they were then transported to the George R Brown Convention Center.
Ellington staff were charged with ensuring that facilitation of military operations could run smoothly, working to remove all foreign object debris from the roadway and taxiways. They reported the status of open and closed roadways and flooded runways to the rescue teams and ensured fuel trucks could access military aircraft.
When President Donald Trump came to Houston to survey the damage Hurricane Harvey caused in the area, Ellington staff even worked with the US Secret Service to provide security sweeps.
Arturo Machuca, general manager of Ellington Airport, said, “While commercial passenger flights halted in Houston, Ellington airport played a critical role to support military flight operations. The team here worked around the clock, and I am proud of their response to make certain that military operations had no interruption.”