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MSP has a severe-weather plan

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg under Airports, Minnesota Updated: June 2, 2011 - 1:13 PM

A reader recently asked me what would happen at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport if a tornado struck the area. I understand the concern. An F3 tornado struck Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in April, sending glass flying; five people were rushed to the hospital. Could the same happen here? As with other lesser travel problems — lost luggage, delayed flights — we hope it won’t happen, but we plan in case it does.
If a tornado threatened Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, travelers would hear an announcement and public safety workers, such as police officers and fire fighters, would direct people to safe places, said Pat Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. In Terminal 1, the Tram Level is underground and underneath roadways. Also, many bathrooms throughout both terminals are emergency shelters. “The goal is to move people into the interior, out of the concourses, and to lower levels,” he said.
Don’t expect the plan to go into effect at the first sound of sirens. Planes can fly during thunderstorms and have taken off and landed even while sirens sounded. “We wouldn’t begin moving people unless there has been a tornado spotted,” Hogan said.
The airport commission alerts airlines and airport employees when a thunderstorm or tornado watch or warning has been issued, so there should be plenty of eyes watching the skies — and a cadre of airport personnel prepared to spring into action.

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