Runways and taxiways at the Santa Barbara Airport were flooded by Monday's big storm.
Runways and taxiways at the Santa Barbara Airport were flooded by Monday's big storm, shutting down operations. Officials say they hope to reopen the airport Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Grace Kitayama / Noozhawk photo

Santa Barbara Airport officials resumed flight operations Tuesday afternoon, including commercial air travel, after crews spent the day on recovery efforts from Monday’s major storm.

The airport was shut down at about 11 a.m. Monday due to flooding caused by the record-breaking storm, which hammered Santa Barbara County.

“All commercial airlines have been notified and will be working to restore service to and from SBA as soon as possible,” Angi Daus, airport marketing supervisor, told Noozhawk at 3:20 p.m.

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The terminal and parking lots are all open, she added.

Maintenance crews had been working since the rain stopped to remove water and clear debris from the runways and taxiways, Daus said.

There was no damage to airport facilities, she said.

Most commercial flights in and out of the airport were canceled on Tuesday, although a small number remained scheduled.

Daus said passengers should continue checking the airport’s website and social media for up-to-date information on the status of their flights.

“Please check with your airline directly regarding your flight status,” Daus advised passengers.

According to Airport Directory Chris Hastert, the rain affected all three of the airport’s runways, as well as the businesses on the northwest side of the airfield. 

Runways and taxiways at the Santa Barbara Airport were flooded by Monday's big storm, shutting down operations.
Runways and taxiways at the Santa Barbara Airport were flooded by Monday’s big storm, shutting down operations. Officials say they hope to reopen the airport Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Grace Kitayama / Noozhawk photo

“We had to do evacuations,” Hastert said.

It is important that the runways are cleared before planes can safely land and takeoff, Hastert said. Small puddles can cause hydroplaning and debris such as pebbles can cause complications for aircraft.

The airport will be cleaned up in phases, Hastert said.

The initial phase is to clean up the three runways and primary taxiways, which will allow for some access for planes. This is done by vehicles that sweep water and debris off the runway and blowers that blow water off of the runway.

After the main runways are opened, airport workers will focus on clearing up the remainder of the taxiways. 

The airport was short staffed on Tuesday due to roads being closed north and south of Santa Barbara, which blocked access for workers who commute from Ventura or the North County.

Some employees and passengers who were stranded by the storm stayed at the airport overnight.

“We face the same challenge that everybody else does with the 101 being closed off,” Hastert said.

About 50% of airport employees are working today, Hastert said, which was about 15 to 20 people, most of whom are maintenance workers.

Flooding is not unheard at the Santa Barbara Airport because it was built atop a slough, only a few feet above sea level, according to Hastert.

“The drainage is slow, and so as the tide comes in and fills up the slough, and all of the water coming down through all the streams, it just overwhelms the system and builds up and floods the airport,” Hastert said.

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Grace Kitayama, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Grace Kitayama is a Noozhawk staff writer.