BEAUFORT — Though not expecting a situation as hectic as the recovery effort from last year’s Hurricane Florence, Michael J. Smith Field Airport officials aren’t taking any chances in their efforts to prepare for Hurricane Dorian.
“There is a high probability if the storm tracks the way it is that we will close the airport Thursday night,” Airport Manager Renee Rogers said.
Currently off the coast of Florida, Hurricane Dorian is expected to crawl along the coast of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina before possibly veering eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean. The storm is expected to reach Carteret County early Thursday.
Ms. Rogers said she and airport staff are working to prepare the facility for the worst. Unlike last year, the officials have to prepare for the storms amidst a number of active projects.
“We’re picking up everything that’s loose,” Ms. Rogers said. “We have some old construction debris that has not been cleaned up yet, so we’re going around working to get that cleaned up.”
Ms. Rogers said the on-site contractors are going about a checklist of activities, like making sure all the sandbags and barricades are filled with sand and water.
“They are ensuring everything is full and not able to be blown over,” Ms. Rogers said.
Ms. Rogers said, since Tuesday, a handful of tenants have opted to fly their planes out of Beaufort, in lieu of sticking out the storm. Helping them do that is Tailwind Avionics owner Steven Ponder.
“I’m doing the same thing as I did (before Hurricane Florence),” Mr. Ponder said. “I’ve got one more plane to get done today and that’s pretty much it until someone else asks to get their plane done. I’m here to help.”
Pilots wanting to fly out of the airport are encouraged to do so as early as possible but no later than Wednesday evening.
For tenants who chose to remain, staff is working to secure their planes and hangars.
“We’re making sure all of our hurricane bolts on our doors are secured,” Ms. Rogers said. “The doors that don’t have hurricane bolts, we’re putting in wedges in there to keep the (wind from blowing in).”
Ms. Rogers said she is expecting the airport to be done with its preparation by Wednesday evening.
“We are still having some pilots come in and inspect their stuff,” Ms. Rogers said, adding that staff will wait until conditions are too dangerous to stick around before closing.
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.