The Heat Is Online

Huge Hailstones Damage 32 Planes in Denver

Hail damage halts flights for days, June 22, 2001

Airline passengers will feel the effects of this week's hail storm in the High Plains for the next couple of weeks.

Airlines again today cancelled flights at Denver International Airport while crews repaired planes damaged in a hail storm on Wednesday.

Airlines said at least 80 planes were damaged when hail as large as golf balls hammered the area.

The storm left 32 United Airlines out of service. The airline had canceled 84 flights by mid-morning Friday, or about four percent of the airline's 2,300 scheduled flights, spokesman Chris Brathwaite said. Some were due to other reasons, including maintenance unrelated to the Denver storm.

Frontier Airlines expected to cancel up to six flights a day through July 1, spokeswoman Elise Eberwein said. Frontier chartered two extra planes after the storm damaged for of its own aircraft. One of the damage planes is back in service. The others will be out for up to 10 days.

The storm dented nearly a third of Air Wisconsin's 50 planes, President Geoff Crowley said. Repaired planes were gradually returning to service, and he expected to have all 19 damaged planes in the air by the end of Saturday. Crowley did not know how many flights were affected Friday.

"It's really affected Aspen, because the British Aerospace 146 is the only airplane that can fly in," he said. "We only have eight or nine left, and those are going to other places."

Great Lakes Airlines canceled about 15 percent of its flights Friday. The storm damaged nearly half of the company's 48 planes, according to Dick Fontaine, senior vice president of marketing for the Cheyenne-based company. He added that 11 planes were back in service on Friday and operations should return to normal Monday.

Delta, Continental and American airlines reported one damage plane each.

The storm's impact was felt far beyond the airport. Hail as large as softballs fell in nearby Watkins, where tree branches lined the streets.

Two people suffered minor injuries and as many as 40 homes were damaged in the town located about 20 miles east of Denver, said Lyle Gerber, a spokesman for Bennett Fire-Rescue.

An estimated 4,000 cars also sustained storm damage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hail hits jets, strands 1,500 in Denver

The Boston Globe, June 22, 2001

DENVER - About 1,500 travelers were stranded at Denver International Airport yesterday after golf ball-size hail knocked nearly 40 planes out of service.

''The sound in the concourse was incredible,'' said Louanne Smith, a teacher from Maryland who slept at the airport with her son and husband after Wednesday night's storm. ''It was like thousands of drums.''

By yesterday morning, United Airlines had canceled 125 of its nearly 2,300 daily flights, a quarter of them due to the problems in Denver, one of its hubs.

United spokesman Chris Brathwaite said at least 32 planes were damaged in the storm, a problem that would cause delays at other airports. Frontier Airlines reported damage to four planes.

The storm brought tornadoes to the area, then swept south, shattering windows in Watkins, about 20 miles east of Denver. Two people suffered minor injuries and 1,200 customers lost power. In some cases, hailstones punched through the metal sheathing of mobile homes.

At the airport, Gayle Baehr of Columbus, Ohio, and her 7-year-old son, Chris, were on a plane that had pulled away from the gate when she saw the hail start to fall.

''They just looked like enormous golf balls, and they put these huge dents in the wing,'' she said. ''You could tell it caused a lot of damage.''

Their flight never took off. Airport workers folded blankets and stacked pillows given to passengers who slept on cots, benches, and floors overnight.

Airport crews towed 33 cars with broken windshields and other hail damage to an impound lot for security, airport spokesman Steve Snyder said. In all, more than 83 vehicles were damaged.

This story ran on page A3 of the Boston Globe on 6/22/2001.