The Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower at Cyril E. King International Airport on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands was damaged badly enough during Hurricane Irma that the FAA has sent a mobile control tower to temporarily accommodate the air traffic controllers. Controllers were previously running the airport out of a tent on the airfield.
The new mobile tower became operational at 9:40 on Wednesday, September 13, several days after category 5 Hurricane Irma passed through and caused catastrophic damage to the island and the Caribbean region. Air traffic controllers shuttle between St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico to staff and operate the facility.
The Virgin Islands Port Authority says the airport suffered “extensive damage,” and the airport was set to open no earlier than September 16th for commercial flights.
— The FAA (@FAANews) September 13, 2017
Thousands of flights have been canceled in the wake of the hurricane, and the national airspace system attempts to regain normalcy. Air traffic virtually ceased over the entire state of Florida and the Caribbean for several days as the hurricane, which spanned nearly 400 miles at its maximum, traversed the region.
Over 1,000 flights were canceled in the U.S. on Wednesday, primarily to and from Florida airports, according to flight tracker FlightAware.
The U.S. Department of Defense and other agencies from the U.S. and other countries have been sending military and chartered flights to the region in order to bring relief supplies and evacuate citizens. As of Tuesday, the DoD had approximately 10,000 personnel in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others to deliver materials, perform rescues, searches, and more. Several Navy vessels including the SS Wright were brought in with materials to assist in the recovery process.