Starke Co. Airport closed after extensive storm damage

A hangar was leveled and at least three planes were nearly destroyed after strong winds tore through the Starke Co. Airport.

Nathan Foreman works for Dungan Aerial Service and was preparing for a day of crop dusting when the storm hit.

"I didn't think nothing of it. The winds started blowing, I closed the doors and it started blowing holes through the doors and I got a little bit worried after that," said Foreman. "It ripped the roof off first and I seen that, I looked around and all the walls started going off."

Foreman then began searching for a place to find cover as the hangar came apart.

"The wind just kept picking up and it sounded like a train like everybody else says, but I don't know if it was a tornado or just straight line winds, but at that point I was like I need to get under the steps or somewhere," said Foreman. "It seemed like probably 30-45 seconds, but to me it felt longer because I was scared, I’ll be honest."

As the winds began to subside he ran to the main terminal building until the rain stopped a few minutes later. When he returned to the hangar it was destroyed.

Several other hangars were also damaged. One plane was nearly destroyed after the door and surrounding wall was blown into it, cutting the wing and pushing the tail into the back wall. Another three planes were also seriously damaged.

“A lot of guys put a lot of energy and a lot of time and a lot of money into their airplanes. Airplanes range from $200,000 airplanes to $12,000 airplanes and each one means a lot to the guy no matter what they pay for it," said Asst. Airport Manager Jeff Dixon. "There's quite a few airplanes that's probably damaged up beyond repair. Totaled out I guess, so it's going to those guys some insurance money to get back into the air."

Fortunately for Foreman, the pilot with the company he works for had taken off earlier that morning for another airport, so the plane was not damaged. They will bring in portable equipment to work out of for the rest of the crop season or until the hangar is rebuilt.

"It's going to make it a little more difficult, but we're going to make adjustments and make it work," said Foreman.

The airport closed after the storm, except to allow planes to leave the damaged hangars, and will remain closed indefinitely.

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