After months under water, airfield cleared to reopen
Air Traffic Assistant Billy Summers looks out over the airfield at the newly painted runway and decimated grass Nov. 7, 2011, at Sherman Army Airfield, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. SAAF reopened to limited operations, daylight hours only as runway lights must be replaced, after being closed since June when three to seven feet of floodwater filled the area.

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Nov. 10, 2011) -- Fort Leavenworth's airfield runway has passed tests and was cleared to reopen.

Fort officials were concerned that flooding earlier this year could have damaged the runway. The Missouri River was flooded during the summer as a result of the Army Corps of Engineers release of additional water at Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota. Engineers said heavy rain and snowfall the previous winter was reason for the additional release of water.

The river flooded many communities, with Iowa and Missouri sustaining much of the damage. Some areas, including homes and farmland, were underwater for months. While the rest of Fort Leavenworth remained dry, Sherman Army Airfield and the surrounding peninsula were underwater throughout the summer.

Billy Summers, air traffic assistant, said the north end was under about four feet of water and the south had about seven feet of water. Although the fort tried to hold back the levy north of the Sherman Army Airfield, water broke through on June 28 and did not completely recede from the runway until Oct. 1.

Luckily the water receded before major frosts hit, Summers said.

"We needed the water to get out before it froze and damaged the structural base of the runway," he said.

Summers said a falling weight deflectometer, or thump test, is required to ensure the runway is operational. The airfield usually goes through testing once every five years, but had to run an additional test this year. The test uses seismic readings to determine if the runway is safe.

Summers said the runway is safe and has been repainted, but will only be open for daytime use until the lights can be repaired.

Many other repairs were needed for buildings, as well as cleanup. Tom Cowan, director of the Garrison Directorate of Plans, Training and Mobilization, said the levee has been restored to its former height and condition, the utilities have been restored and the road has been graded and mowed.

Planes can refuel via truck, but the fuel service pod should be repaired in a few weeks.
Training Areas D and F, which are adjacent to the airfield, reopen for hunting Nov. 11.

Page last updated Wed November 16th, 2011 at 08:31