Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Northwest Florida Beaches International (KECP), Panama City, Florida: Airport Learns Lessons from Hurricane Isaac

WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader 

The Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is only two years old, so when the last hurricane to affect our area was Dennis in 2005, the potential for Isaac had airport officials dealing with their first major storm. 

Airport Officials are calling this week a learning experience and one that they can implement in future storm preparations.

Our area ultimately didn't take the brunt of Isaac, but now the airport has a better idea of what they can expect.

It was business as usual Tuesday at The Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, but the last week has been far from normal for Executive Deputy Director, Parker McClellan, and staff.

The now-Hurricane Isaac has been less than predictable, at times tracking straight to the Panhandle and putting the young airport on alert.

"This airport opened two years ago. This is really the first storm that we've had that really put us to our tests," said McClellan.

It's a test McClellan feels they can now ace. So, even though Isaac didn't make a large appearance in Panama City, what some are calling "the storm that wasn't" actually taught the airport important lessons in precaution.

"It's a huge team effort and what this storm turned out to be was a great opportunity to practice…We have lessons learned. We've already walked away and implemented some corrective actions, so that's what it's all about," said McClellan.

Now, with Isaac to our west, eyes are looking towards Labor Day Weekend, which is considered that "last hurrah" of Summer.

Florida Governor Rick Scott says the Sunshine State is open for business.

"We are a tourism state. We are open for business Labor Day. So, I hope everyone will continue their plans to come to Florida," said Scott.

As planes continue to land in Panama City, it's seems people are doing just that; people like Orlando resident Sharon Balance, who didn't let the threat of bad weather keep her from celebrating her Mom's birthday.

"I lived in tornado alley, so this doesn't scare me at all," laughed Balance.

Nor did it worry Baltimore Resident, Sherry Brengle.

"The only thing we were thinking was that our flight might be delayed and we'd have to stay a day or two extra, and that's ok with us," said Brengle.

But, they can all agree that they'd like to replace high surf with some sunshine.

"The weather looks the rest of the week going into next week, so it looks like we're going to have a great Labor Day weekend," said McClellan.

So far, there has only been one cancellation of a Southwest Flight coming from Houston due to Hurricane Isaac.

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