The snow and ice from Winter Storm Diego shut down roads around the county and the state but the same cannot be said for the runways at Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA), which managed to remain open for the entire duration of the storm through the herculean efforts of airport staff and outside crews that were called in to help.
PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker said that, despite the very heavy snowfall, the airport managed to stay open the whole time. He said PTIA brought in outside help and put those workers up in rooms at the adjacent Marriot hotel. The crews worked alternating 12-hour shifts to keep the runways clear, the walkways passable and do other things like break up huge blocks of ice from snowplow paths that ended up blocking traffic.
Though the airport remained open, it still faced problems from Diego.
“You always have hiccups,” Baker said, “like cars blocked by piles of ice and that sort of thing.”
He said the airport had to outsource some heavy equipment as well and he added that, when it comes to runways, in storms like Diego, by the time you get to the end of the job the part you started plowing is already accumulating snow again.
“It’s just a constant back and forth and you can’t let it build up an inch,” he said.
Baker said he can’t say enough good things about his staff and the work crews that were called in to help.
“They are just such dedicated people,” he said.
While the airport kept its runway open, some airlines did cancel flights due to the snow. Airlines normally park planes at PTIA overnight for early morning departures but instead the airlines kept those planes at other airports during the storm, which meant some early morning flights from PTIA were canceled.
“They didn’t want them sitting there collecting snow,” Baker said of the planes.
Many of the duties during the storm fell directly on Michael Kuhn – a young and brand new chief deputy of facilities at PTIA who just started at the job a few weeks ago.
“I told him, ‘You had a baptism by fire,’” Baker said.