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Tri-County Regional Airport faces flooding for second time this year

LONE ROCK (WKOW) — For the second time in six months, the Tri-County Regional Airport is contending with closures due to flooding.

According to Mark Higgs, the airport manager, the airport is “functional but barely.” One of the runways is closed and the main runway has only 400 usable feet out of 1,000. In addition, the terminal building is closed, so is the fuel station and the privately-owned Picadilly Lilly restaurant.

Pilots like Paul Peckham said all that water means it’s not even worth trying to take off.

“You can’t get out of here,” he said. “There’s about a foot of water there on the taxiway right now.”

So instead of dragging his plane through water, Peckham said he’s keeping it in the hangar for the forseeable future.

“For all intents and purposes, I won’t be flying for the rest of the year,” he said.

Ed Leinweber is in a similar position. The pilot not only flies out of Tri-County but he stores much of his supplies for his airplane kit business in his hangar at the airport.

He said these past few weeks, he’s been flood-proofing whatever he can and putting the business on hold.

“You don’t know whether with the next rain there’s going to be water in the building so I’m reluctant to undertake any projects,” he said.

Fortunately, by Monday he said the water receded some. By that evening the water was about five feet from Leinweber’s hangar but he said this isn’t the first time his property on site has been threatened.

Leinweber said the heavy, quick snowmelt in March, brought seven inches of water into his hangar.

“I lost equipment and tooling and instruments because of it,” he said.

He said the damage cost him a few thousand dollars in property and business so he’s not taking any chances with this upcoming rain.

“We’ve picked everything up off the floor to get a good seven or eight inches up, and that’s really the best we can do,” he said. “If we get two or four or six inches, there’s going to be at least that much water in this building.”

Higgs said he doesn’t expect the water to recede enough to reopen all of the airport’s functions for at least another week because there’s nowhere for the water to go, other than the already-high groundwater table.

As for solutions, pilots said they’ve been talking to representatives from all three counties, Richland, Sauk and Iowa to come up with a drainage plan for the airport. Leinweber said there was a plan at some point to dig a drainage ditch from the airport to Bear Creek but it was never completed.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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