Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hickory Regional Airport (KHKY), Catawba County, North Carolina

HICKORY— The Hickory Regional Airport received the brunt of a storm that ripped through the eastern part of Burke County with what some said were 100 mph winds.

Around 4:45 p.m., several reports were made of tornado touchdowns across multiple different counties in the foothills.

It is undetermined if a tornado made a landing at the airport, but the powerful winds left a large mark and destroyed multiple hangars and damaged up to eight different privately owned airplanes.

Rick Foster, of Hickory, has stored his Piper Comanche airplane at the Hickory Regional Airport for eight years and has never encountered weather like this.

“I was back at my house making sure everything was okay (because it is) just 5 miles south of town,” Foster said. “When we heard on a Facebook post that something had hit the airport, I said, ‘let’s ride up there and see.’”

When Foster reached the hangar, he was in disbelief. He knew there was damage, but not to the extent that he soon would realize.

“It was breathtaking to walk up over the hill and see it,” he said. “I just knew there was some damage … I just thought it would blow a couple airplanes around and then I saw this whole hangar destroyed.”

Miraculously, his Piper Comanche was not touched. He was able to enter the part of the hangar his plane was in to find it just as he had left it.

“How lucky we are,” Foster said.

Foster is determined that the damage was caused by a tornado.

Tornadoes were reported in several different parts of the foothills, but the National Weather Service had not confirmed any touchdown as of Monday night. The NWS generally evaluates an area days after a storm to determine if it was a tornado and what level it measured on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

There were up to eight planes inside the hangar with a majority of them being damaged, said Sarah Prencipe, communications specialists with the city of Hickory. The airport is owned by the city of Hickory.

There were no injuries reported after the high winds came through, she said.

“Which is amazing and the most important thing,” Prencipe said.

Prencipe said, to her knowledge, the damage to the hangars should not affect flights coming into and leaving the airport.

“Our risk manager has called our insurance companies and put them on notice and will be working more with them tomorrow, but they have been made aware,” she said. “We are working now to notify the plane owners.”

Hickory Fire Department, Catawba County EMS and Duke Energy were on scene evaluating and cleaning up the damage.

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