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Multimillion-Dollar Loss in Vegas Storm

August 9, 1989

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Officials at two airports assessed millions of dollars in damage Wednesday after a storm packing winds of 99 miles per hour scattered private aircraft like toys.

Sixty-four planes were damaged - 42 at McCarran International Airport here and 22 at Sky Harbor Airport in nearby Henderson - when hurricane-force wind ripped through the Las Vegas Valley on Tuesday evening. Ten aircraft were heavily damaged or destroyed at McCarran; 13 were destroyed at Sky Harbor.

No injuries were reported.

No commercial aircraft were damaged although some commercial flights were barred from taking off or landing until the storm passed, McCarran spokeswoman Vicki Donaldson said.

Damage was ″well into the millions″ and could reach as high as $14 million, Ms. Donaldson said. Damage also was estimated in the millions at Sky Harbor.

Two aircraft used by Scenic Airlines Inc. for Grand Canyon tours were blown into each other. The roof of the Scenic terminal, on the northern edge of the sprawling McCarran field, suffered heavy damage.

A hangar belonging to Circus Circus Enterprises was nearly demolished, with one private jet left resting atop another.

One airplane was blown some 200 feet at McCarran, airport spokesman Sam Ingalls said. A number of aircraft were flipped, and two corporate hangars were destroyed, he added.

A large door on a hangar housing a $1 million Lockheed jet belonging to entertainer Wayne Newton was blown away but the jet was undamaged.

″We have no idea where the door went,″ one of Newton’s pilots, Mike Cotton, said Wednesday.

Damage at the airports was the only significant loss reported. There was some minor flooding and downed power lines, police spokesman Matt Alberto said. About 35,000 homes and businesses were without power for a period.

Some residents were rattled by the fierce wind and rain.

″It was out of control. We could not see out of the windows of our agency,″ said Karen Kerr, who was working at Golden Valley Travel. ″The winds were blowing so hard. All of our phones and electricity was out for about three hours.″

National Weather Service instruments recorded winds up to 90 miles per hour before lightning knocked out service at about 6 p.m. That is the highest windspeed recorded in the Las Vegas Valley, said Charlie Schlott of the weather service’s airport office.

George Feick, supervisor of the Federal Aviation Administration’s control tower at McCarran, said FAA equipment registered one gust at 99 mph.

″I’ve been here a few years and that’s the highest windspeed I’ve ever seen,″ Feick said. ″It was pretty nasty, the tower was swaying quite a bit.″

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