Airport runway loses lights during thunderstorm

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

Lightning strikes more than twice and the South Bend Regional Airport is still feeling the effects of summer storms that tore through Michiana Wednesday night.

Authorities believe lightning caused the airport's runway lighting system to stop functioning, which left many planes and passengers grounded.

Authorities say a couple dozen flights in and out of the airport have been cancelled since last night's storm, forcing many people to re-schedule their flights.

It has caused a bit of a back-up, but airport officials hope things will return to normal very soon.

It is hard for an airport to function when pilots cannot see where to land. With no runway lights, flights were cancelled Wednesday night.

"When you have lightning strikes like this, it's just very difficult to deal with. I mean, we do the very best we can to make sure we stay open, but sometimes this happens, and the last time we've had something like this, it's been at least 5 years," said Mike Guljes, with South Bend Regional Airport.

Once the sun came out Thursday morning, flights resumed but foggy weather caused even more cancellations, with the runway lights still not working.

One passenger, flying to Arizona to see family, was delayed 11 hours.

"My uncle is not in great health, but I try to get up there once a year to visit with him. So he was a little disappointed I wasn't getting in at 11:00 clock this morning, and instead, it's 10:00 tonight," said Brenda Frays, around noon, as she waited for her 6:00 p.m. flight.

Authorities say that many flights leaving South Bend were cancelled and others that were meant to land there were diverted.

”We have flights that divert to South Bend when other airports have difficulties, and they reciprocate in situations like this. The good thing is the airlines will take care of the passengers," Guljes said.

That can be quite a task with at least ten cancelled flights and passengers who would rather not spend a full day at the airport.

"I mean we needed the rain so bad, but of all times, it's just I don't know, what are you gonna do? I'll be anxious to get to Tucson and lay by the pool, and spend time with my uncle," Frays said.

Airport authorities tell us the runway lights were finally repaired Thursday afternoon and should be functioning for the evening's flights.

There should not be any more cancellations related to Wednesday night's storms.


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