Tornado causes travelers at JIA to shelter in place

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Travelers flying through Jacksonville International Airport had to take shelter when a tornado touched down nearby during Sunday’s thunderstorm.

The airport practices severe storm procedures multiple times a year, and Sunday was an example of that plan in action.

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Photos taken by a travelers show the ominous clouds stretching down over the landscape near Jacksonville International Airport when the tornado touched down.

“We’re monitoring that situation constantly when there is a threat,” said Michael Stewart with Jacksonville Aviation Authority.

Stewart said during Sunday’s storm, the call was made for travelers to shelter in place.

For those in pre-security, the safest place is down at baggage claim.

“And more down towards … just like any place else, the core of your building is a safer area,” said Stewart.

As for travelers who were past security, they’re also directed towards the core of the building.

The main goal in both cases: keep people away from glass.

“Because of a tornado’s high winds, and flying debris could happen at any time,” said Stewart.

Sunday’s incident went off without a hitch, and travelers were able to return to business as usual when the ”all clear” was announced.

Stewart told us if something more severe seemed imminent, like a direct hit, travelers could be sent to shelter in the stairwells, which are normally off-limits to the general public.

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“That would create just a situation of requiring to rescreen passengers,” said Stewart.

Stewart told us as far as the tarmac goes, air traffic controllers will leave the tower once winds reach a certain speed, and shelter in the building below.

There, they’re able to continue working, directing planes back to terminals to get passengers to safety and directing traffic up in the skies to ensure planes don’t land at JIA if the situation isn’t safe.

With hurricane season just over two weeks away, Stewart said the airport is ready, and he urged Floridians to prepare themselves.

“Where do you go, where do you evacuate to, and what do you have important that you’re going to need if you have a very, very short time to put it together and leave. So, we have that plan, but people can feel safe if they’re here,” said Stewart.