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UPDATE: Lambert reopening today, expects to be at 70 percent capacity Sunday
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UPDATE: Lambert reopening today, expects to be at 70 percent capacity Sunday

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Updated at 5:05 p.m.:

ST. LOUIS • Lambert-St. Louis International Airport plans to resume service shortly and expects to be operating at about 70 percent capacity by Sunday.

Southwest airlines plans to have four to five inbound flights and Delta will have two flights tonight.

Ameren CEO Tom Voss said at a press conference at the airport that the utility expected to have power restored to Lambert shortly.

EARLIER STORY:

 

ST. LOUIS • Officials announced Saturday that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport remains closed but they hope to have the airport running at about 70 percent capacity by Sunday.

That will mostly depend on whether they can restore power to the airport and the ability of the airlines to resume flight schedules, airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said at a press conference with officials from St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The National Weather Service in St. Louis has reported that an EF3 tornado hit the airport and adjoining North St. Louis County, which means winds exceeding 135 mph.

Concourse C of Terminal 1 had the most damage. The airlines that run out of it — American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Air Tran and Cape Air — will have to be moved elsewhere in the airport.

Hamm-Niebruegge said those airlines will likely go to Concourse B, which is not currently in use. That could be accomplished within a day, if the decision is made to use those gates.

Concourse A in that terminal should be fully functional by Sunday. Terminal 2, where all of the Southwest Airlines flights run, had some damage but is operational. Between those two, officials say they will reach 70 percent capacity.

Southwest Airlines canceled all of its flights in and out of Lambert on Saturday. The airline had six planes on the ground when the storm hit, and one of the Boeing 737s was damaged when the wind pushed a belt loader into it.

"It's really a wait and see game right now," said Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Marilee McInnis.

Airport crews worked through the night to clear damage from the tornado. By the 10 a.m. press conference, they could be seen cleaning shards of glass from window frames that had been blown out boarding them up with plywood.

A handful of troops gathered in the USO lounge, waiting to move out.

Area officials planned to meet with airport personnel after the briefing. Another update will be given this afternoon.

Richard Bradley, president the city's Board of Public Service, said it is too early to give a damage estimate for the aiprort, but the losses are clearly in the millions.

People at the airport when the tornado struck suffered mostly minor injuries. Airport officials said five individuals were taken to hospitals for treatment, not four as they reported earlier.

Airlines went into a holding pattern as the storm passed. Some were held on the tarmac and others were diverted to Kansas City. 

Windows were shattered throughout the main terminal, where the roof was also heavily damaged, and airport traffic signs were uprooted. Dozens of cars on the upper level of the parking garages had their windows smashed in by the storm.

It wasn't long before officials announced the airport was closed indefinitely. The last prolonged closure of the airport was after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said. The last closure due to weather was in 1995.  

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Jennifer S. Mann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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