Emails shed light on reason for runway closures during Charleston’s winter storm

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — Boeing officials want to meet with airport leaders to develop a plan for any future winter storms. This comes after Charleston International Airport runways were shut down for nearly 4 days.

Count On 2 Investigators received emails and other documents through the Freedom of Information Act that shed light on why the runways were shut down for that amount of time.

An agreement between the Charleston County Aviation Authority and the United States Air Force shows the Air Force owns, operates and maintains the two runways the civil aircraft use.

An email exchange between airport officials and Boeing officials relays information based on assessments from Air Force crews during the winter storm.

An email at 12:07 p.m. on Wednesday, January 3, from Renee Melvin, Supervisor of Operations with Charleston International Airport, stated that “both RWY’s are closed due to inclement weather until further notice.”

The next email from Roger Schwartz with CHS is dated Thursday, January 4, at 9:37 a.m. It states that the USAF Field Manager advised that “his team conducted a runway assessment and both runways are covered with ice and snow. The runways are officially closed at this time until further notice.” The email goes on to say that the field manager does not believe that enough of the winter matter will melt to allow the runways to open the following day.

A follow-up email from Schwartz is sent at 5:00 p.m., explaining that as of 3:00 p.m., USAF officials advised the runways were still coated with ice and snow and the runways should remain closed.

Friday morning, January 5, another email is sent giving a status update. The email explains USAF conducted another assessment, and the runways were still covered with ice and snow. It explains the “team will continue to inspect and assess the runways every 2 hours.”

At 10:37 a.m., an email from Schwartz is sent to the USAF Deputy Air Field Manager. It provides the website of a snow removal company used by Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.

An email from Melvin at 2:44 p.m. explains USAF had contractors on site to provide snow removal on one of the runways.

There was also an email allowing Boeing to assist with snow removal.

On Saturday, January 6, one runway opened. Sunday afternoon, January 7, both runways were operational.

Monday, January 8, a Boeing employee sent an email to Hernan E. Pena, Jr., Deputy Director of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, and Sen. Paul Campbell, Director of CCAA. It said, in part, “Senator Campbell and I briefly discussed that we would like to do a meeting in the coming weeks with all of us and the Air Force to figure out a plan for any future weather issues.”

Count On 2 Investigators have an interview set up with Campbell for later this week. We will bring you a special report once that interview is available.

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