Director Declares St. Louis Airport Recovery "Miraculous"

By: CNN
By: CNN

(CNN) -- The main airport in St. Louis is expected to operate a full flight schedule Tuesday, less than four days after a powerful tornado tore through the facility, airport officials said.

But restoration efforts are far from over at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where the Friday night storm shattered windows and ripped off part of a roof.

"It obviously just took a couple of minutes for the damage to occur," Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge told CNN's "American Morning." "It will take weeks, maybe a couple of months, to clean up all of it."

Still, Hamm-Niebruegge said efforts to get the facility up and running again have been "miraculous."

American Airlines returned to service on Monday, officials said, leaving only Cape Air among the airport's 13 airlines still out of service because of storm damage. Cape Air will resume flights on Tuesday, airport officials said in a statement Monday evening.

American and Cape Air were among the hardest hit after the storm, which devastated the airport's C concourse.

The tornado damaged 750 homes near the airport, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said. And preliminary National Weather Service estimates released Saturday show the tornado packed winds between 111 and 165 miles per hour when it hit the airport.

There were no fatalities reported -- a fact that Nixon characterized as "absolutely amazing."

At the airport, Hamm-Niebruegge said the facility's design -- and the way people responded to warnings -- played a key role.

"It is a historic building, and it's built very, very well. I think that had a part to do with it, but we also had very early warnings," she said.

Besides damage to homes and the airport, the strong winds also hit businesses and tore through the roof of a Ferguson, Missouri church, where dozens had gathered on Good Friday to watch the movie "Passion of the Christ."

Officials have said inspections of buildings will take several days and hauling off debris will take longer.

Elsewhere in Missouri, storms over the weekend left behind water on the runways at a regional airport, forcing authorities to shut down the facility temporarily.

The Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, located about 100 miles south of St. Louis, has been shut down since Sunday, administrative coordinator Katrina Atkins said.

Crews were activating a pumping system to remove the standing water Monday, she said, but authorities had not determined when the airport would reopen.

-- CNN's Tom Laabs contributed to this report.

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