Airports Close, Federal Buildings Empty After East Coast Terrorist Attacks

by Arkansas Business staff  on Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2001 12:24 pm  

Airports and government offices across the state were closed Tuesday after terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Aviation Administration halted air travel nationwide at about 9 a.m. and ordered all flights in the air to land immediately. The Little Rock National Airport and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport closed.

At the Little Rock National Airport, about 24 planes have taken refuge. Three airplanes were grounded at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill by 10:30 a.m.

About 10 flights had taken off from Highfill before 9 a.m. All those either reached their scheduled destinations or safely landed elsewhere, said Scott Van Laningham, executive director of the airport.

"We have checked all of the flights out of here, and they are safe on the ground somewhere at this point," he said. XNA has about 45 round-trip flights daily.

When asked whether security had been heightened at XNA, Van Laningham said, "I can't talk about security at all."

Six Planes Land at Rogers

About six airplanes were stranded at Rogers Municipal Airport/Carter Field at 11 a.m. today.

Frank Speer, the airport manager, said 12 airplanes used by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville took off between 5:30 and 6 a.m., "so most of those got where they were going." If they were on long flights, however, those planes would have been forced to land at the nearest airport as the FAA required of airlines nationwide.

Speer said Wal-Mart usually has 16 to 18 round-trip flights per day into and out of the Rogers airport.

Security High at LRAFB

The Little Rock Air Force Base is on heightened security because of the attacks in New York and Washington Tuesday morning.

LRAFB is at force protection condition Charley, the third-highest condition, said Air Force Base spokesman Technical Sgt. Keith Ford.

Workers are "checking and IDs at the front gate, and [we] are waiting to see where we go from here," Ford said.

Ford wouldn't release any more details Tuesday morning.

Highland Park Increases Security

Officials at the Highland Industrial Park in East Camden began stepping up security at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The 17,000-acre complex in south Arkansas is dominated by defense contractors working with munitions such as Atlantic Research Corp., Lockheed Martin Vought Systems, Raytheon Missile Systems Co., Tracor Aerospace and the Camden Ordnance Manufacturing Co.

Security staff at the three main gates are stopping vehicles, checking driver's licenses and verifying that visitors to restricted areas have business there before being allowed to enter, said Eddie Sullivan, operations manager at the park.

The Calhoun County Sheriff's office is stepping up its patrols of the area, and Troop F of the State Police in Warren is on stand-by for additional security.

The Arkansas National Guard said it is restricting access to Camp Robinson in North Little Rock and Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith. Only those who work on post and who have a valid reason to be there will be allowed to enter.

Traffic is usually open to the public and will open again once a decision has been made to do so, the National Guard said. The closing is not a response to any direct threat, but a "routine precaution," the guard said.

Security at the Pine Bluff Arsenal was tightened after the attack, according to a source outside of the Arsenal.

Workers Leave Federal Buildings

Gov. Mike Huckabee is returning to Little Rock by automobile from the canceled Southern Governors' Association annual meeting in Lexington, Ky. He is being escorted by the Kentucky state police and the Tennessee state police through their respective states.

Huckabee, who said Tuesday that he has been in touch with Lt. Gov. Rockefeller at the state Capitol, is expected to arrive in Little Rock early this evening.

The governor's public events for Wednesday have been canceled.

At the Federal Building on Capitol Ave. in Little Rock, sources said the office of Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., was evacuated. Sources said Hutchinson, who is in Washington, D.C., at a staffer's home, is reportedly safe.

Officials put the Federal Building on alert this morning, later telling individual offices that they could leave if they wanted, the source said. The Federal Building is also home to the offices of Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., the Internal Revenue Service and the Army Corp of Engineers.

Most of the offices in the Federal Building on Mountain Street in Fayetteville have closed to the public. Only the Social Security Administration office remains open, and sources in the office expect it will close soon.

Closed offices in the building include the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, the U.S. Labor Department, the U.S. District Court Western District of Arkansas and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Fayetteville Division.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has activated its emergency action center in Denton, Texas, said William Penn, the FEMA Region VI public affairs officer.

Region VI includes Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

"We are coordinating with state and local authorities," Penn said, but said the agency had no reports of any incidents in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, headquartered in Conway, activated its emergency operations center about 8:25 a.m., said spokeswoman Jennifer Gordon.

The department headquarters has been locked down, which means that identification is being required for entrance, Gordon said.

The department is in contact with its local coordinators, the front line for agency action, Gordon said, along with other agencies.

"We've been in pretty much constant contact with other state agencies" as well as with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said.



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