It comes as no surprise to virtually anybody who
was affected by the blizzard that hit Denver, CO last month -- not
only in Denver, but around the country -- that the Mile High City
and its airport were not prepared to take on a storm of such
A preliminary report on Denver International Airport's (DIA)
response to last month's blizzard says, get ready, "the airport
wasn't ready for a storm that big and the problems will cost tens
of millions of dollars to fix." This, according to The Denver
DIA, for those who did not pick up on the round-the-clock news
storm coverage and its impact, was closed for 45 hours beginning
December 20. More than 2,000 flights were canceled and some 4,700
travelers were stranded.
Not to be caught in a similar circumstance, DIA officials hired
a consultant to review the airport's performance. Tim Phillips'
preliminary report noted that DIA had the equipment and staff to
keep two runways open during a storm with six to eight inches of
snow over 12 hours. DIA receives an average of 60 inches of the
white stuff annually.
This storm wasn't about to go by the books, however. It dumped
20 to 22 inches over 34 hours. And with a blizzard, comes winds.
Winds up to 40 mph piled the snow four feet and more. By the
afternoon of December 20, airport officials halted operations.
"We had zero visibility, blowing snow and 40 mph winds," said
DIA aviation manager Turner West. "It was not safe."
When the airport re-opened at noon on December 22, the damage
had already been done. United Airlines lost $30 million in
passenger revenues from that blizzard and the one that followed a
week later. Frontier Airlines lost $13 million. And thousands of
people around the country felt the impact, as reported by ANN.
Phillips' report also includes an assessment that DIA's
snow-removal plan for the critical ramp area between concourses was
understaffed, under-equipped -- and inadequate for a snowfall above
four inches on the ramp. Snow, of course, needs to be removed to
allow planes access to their ramp gates.
Additionally, because of the amount of snow, the airport had to
truck it to more remote sites in order to clear critical areas, as
its usually area for snow dumping was lost to... snow.
Phillips' preliminary report recommends in the future, DIA use
large, industrial snow melters -- similar to systems at Chicago's
O'Hare airport -- that can melt up to 600 tons of snow an hour and
be placed near ramp area storm drains.
He also recommended that DIA purchase high-speed multifunction
snow-removal machines that combine plowing, sweeping and snow
blowing in one unit.