Florida Capital Airport Suffers Minor Tornado Damage

 - January 28, 2021, 2:57 PM
Authorities at Florida's Tallahassee International Airport are relieved after Tuesday's tornado caused only minor damage and no injuries. Among the structures most affected was a 25,000-sq-ft hangar which lost its fabric doors. Leased by the State of Florida to house its official aircraft, it was empty at the time according to reports. (Image: Tallahassee International Airport)

Tallahassee International Airport (TLH), which serves Florida’s capital, closed briefly Wednesday to assess the damage and clean up after a minor tornado swept across the state's Panhandle region.  

The storm, the force of which is still being calculated, struck just before noon, damaging several hangars including one leased by the state, which was unoccupied at the time. The 25,000-sq-ft structure had temporary fabric doors in place of metal ones previously damaged by severe weather and were thus awaiting replacement. According to TLH deputy director of aviation Jim Durwin. “Wednesday’s storm kind of finished the job on them.” Other structures lost siding and rain gutters as a result of the storm.

While the tornado caused no casualties at the airport, it flipped at least one light aircraft on its back, moved a Boeing 737 off its chocks, and pivoted a CRJ-900. According to Durwin, TLH reopened one of its runways two hours later, followed shortly by the other.

“We feel very fortunate,” Durwin told AIN, citing the overall minor damage. “We’re going to use this to debrief and then to try to make improvements to our [emergency] plan.”

2020 was a particularly destructive year for tornadoes at airports, with strikes in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and South Carolina. According to insurance industry estimates, damages from those events could eventually cost between $75 million and $125 million.