Johnson County Executive Airport (KOJC) in Olathe, Kansas, suffered major damage after a severe weather event tore through the area on Monday night. An entire row of T-hangars was completely demolished and the airplanes that were parked inside were piled randomly near the site where the hangar used to protect them. Around a dozen other hangars at the airport suffered major and minor damage.
While the destruction appeared to have been caused by a tornado, a statement from the Johnson County government office stated that the National Weather Service concluded in its preliminary assessment that the damage was caused by straight-line winds. Local airport tenant Dianne White said the airport had measured winds of more than 85 mph.
There was, however, a tornado watch in the area. “There were no tornado warnings for Johnson County and no reports of tornadoes from spotters in the field, so the outdoor warning sirens were not sounded in the county, which is our normal procedure,” said county emergency management coordinator Dan Robeson.
There have been no official reports of the number of airplanes damaged as a result of the weather event. White, who has two airplanes parked in the affected hangars, said that airport officials stated in a briefing that they estimated approximately 70 airplanes were destroyed or damaged. In addition, about 46 homes were damaged near the airport, according to the statement by Johnson County.
White said there is still concern about the structural integrity of the standing structures and a potential hazmat situation is still in effect near the severely damaged hangars. Explosive ordinance disposal technicians came in on Wednesday to disarm several Cirrus parachutes on airplanes affected by the storm. The parachute rockets are seen as a hazard to emergency responders and others around the affected airplanes. “Cleanup will take weeks and it will be months before rebuilding can begin,” White said.
Following the weather event, government officials shut the airport down overnight. The airport opened to limited operations on Tuesday and only very limited access has been allowed to airport tenants to assess the damage to their property. The airport is now in full operation albeit still with limited access to the severely damaged areas.