By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport Aviation Director Jeff Bilyeu knew it was coming.
“For weeks leading up to the flood, we knew the river was rising because of the rainfall Central Texas had received,” said Bilyeu. “Even though we had prepared our airport and tenants, it’s hard to truly be ready for what happened.”
What happened was a historic flooding event that saw the Brazos River cresting at 52.56 feet on June 5, but taking nearly two weeks to fully recede to safe levels. The level was the third highest crest on record for northern Brazoria County.
The airport was A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) closed on June 6. Even though, the airport hangars, runway, taxiways, terminal building and restaurant remained above water, many of the access roads on the airport and virtually all fields were covered in water.
“To reopen the airport, we needed a safe entry road and safe utilities,” explained Bilyeu. “To get back to truly normal operations, including during darkness, we needed dependable phones and airfield lighting.”
The entry road (County Road 220B) was underwater for a week. To get to the airport to assess damage, Bilyeu relied on local officials to ferry him via airboat.
“Obviously it was important to keep our tenants and the public apprised of the airport’s current status,” said Bilyeu. “So we posted continuous updates, along with photos and video, to our Facebook page.”
The airport reopened for day use on June 13; 10 days after initially closing and surprisingly sustained little damage beyond the cleanup.
“Our runway, terminal building, hangars—every structure stayed above the water,” said Bilyeu. “As bad as this situation was, it could have certainly been much worse. I’m thankful for the support of our local officials and tenants in getting us operational as quickly as possible.”