SPRING GREEN (WKOW) -- Winds of around 75 mph ripped through the Tri-County Airport early Monday, damaging four hangars and four private planes.
Claude McFarlane, a pilot who lives in Fitchburg, owned two of the general aviation hangars that were damaged. One of them was destroyed, with a 1978 Cessna 152 and several classic cars buried under the debris.
"It was worse than I expected," McFarlane said, who remembers waking up in the middle of the night to the loud winds. "I've been up here since 1985 and never received any damage until now. I guess I've been lucky before. Of course I'm upset, but there's always that risk."
The winds also tore through pilot Jim Atkinson's hangar, pushing in the back wall four feet. Inside, airplane wings and rudders flew through the air, nicking propellers.
Atkinson estimates that he will have to pay at least $10,000 out of his own pocket.
"You don't realize there's going to be damage to a hangar, so I did not put insurance on the hangar. And I hadn't been flying the airplane lately, so I didn't have insurance on that either," Atkinson said.
The strong gusts also sheared a 6-by-6-inch support post in Atkinson's hangar. Monday morning, he found broken pieces of it lying 25 feet away.
"I was really surprised the timbers here just broke like toothpicks. So it must have been a heck of a wind," said Marc Higgs, Tri-County Airport manager.
Higgs says the worst damage to the airport came in 2008, when floodwaters drowned the runways, but he says he's never seen comparable wind damage.
"First thing I noticed was the wind sock was gone and that's really a bad sign," Higgs said.
Monday morning, Higgs briefly closed runways and spent about two hours cleaning them off and repairing six runway lights.
He says he expects to do further cleanup Tuesday morning and through the rest of the week as storms are expected to make their way through the area.
As for the pilots, those with insurance are waiting for adjusters to survey the damage. However, a contractor in the area Monday estimated total damage with personal belongings would reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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