St. Louis airport to be fully operational by midweek

Sunday, April 24, 2011 | 7:00 p.m. CDT

NEW YORK — Flights partially resumed out of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Sunday after the area's most powerful tornado in decades ripped off part of the roof and shattered hundreds of windows at the main terminal.

The airport expects all 256 daily departures to be back on schedule by the middle of the week. About 60 percent of the daily departures were slated to take off on Easter Sunday, as area residents were still sorting through the debris and rubble.

Airlines said the impact on other hubs was minimal because of the limited number of flights out of Lambert.

American Airlines, which was housed in the damaged Concourse C and operates 31 daily flights out of Lambert, planned to resume flights Monday. Crews were working over the weekend to ready a nearby concourse that had been closed for several years. Cape Air, a regional carrier that also operated out of Concourse C, is scheduled to resume its flights Tuesday. AirTran, which was also in the damaged concourse, had been moved to another concourse Saturday night and resumed flights Sunday.

Southwest Airlines Co. — the biggest carrier at the airport with 85 daily departures — was operating at a full schedule with no delays or cancellations. The carrier operates out of a terminal that suffered minimal damage.

Concourse C meanwhile has been closed indefinitely.

"The force blew out a majority of the windows and created a major rupture in the roof structure," said Jeff Lea, an airport spokesman. Restaurants and shops suffered extensive damage and it could be several months before the wing is reopened, he said.

The nearly 24-hour shutdown of Lambert came after the St. Louis area suffered its most powerful tornado in 44 years Friday night. Several hundred homes were damaged and up to 100 were said to be destroyed.

The tornado peaked at an EF-4 level, which is second-highest on the enhanced Fujita scale, packing winds of up to 200 mph. It was the most powerful twister in metropolitan St. Louis since 1967, according to the National Weather Service. Officials said nobody was killed or seriously injured.

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