Omaha Scrambles To Keep Its Airport Afloat

Originally published on June 17, 2011 10:58 am
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But as Katie Knapp Schubert reports, from member station KIOS in Omaha, the city's airport is scrambling to avoid ending up under water.

KATIE KNAPP SCHUBERT: Unidentified Man: Containers must be placed in a single pour-size, clear, plastic zip-top bag. Your zip-top bag must be removed.

KNAPP SCHUBERT: And that's exactly how Omaha Airport Authority Executive Director Steve Coufal wants it.

STEVE COUFAL: From the very beginning, our objective has really been two-fold, and that's to protect our assets at Eppley Airfield. And then second, to maintain air operations. And currently air service is operating normally at Eppley and there have been no interruptions associated with the flood.

KNAPP SCHUBERT: Still, Coufal says contractors are working day and night to keep the water out.

COUFAL: We've bagged areas knowing that when the ground is saturated, if there would be a heavy rainfall, there could be some temporary flash flooding. And what those will do is protect key assets, such as our concourse and terminal, until such time as the pumps could get caught back up during a heavy rain.

KNAPP SCHUBERT: If the levee protecting the airport was breached, a flood would be devastating to air travel throughout this region, according to David Byers. He's an associate professor at the University of Nebraska, Omaha's Aviation Institute.

DAVID BYERS: Let me put it this way: Eppley, from the latest figures that I have, is the 63rd busiest airport in the country in terms of numbers of passengers. Certainly, the interruption of air service in and out of the area would be very significant to the community.

KNAPP SCHUBERT: For NPR news, I'm Katie Knapp Schubert in Omaha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.