The Pensacola International Airport’s destructive weather preparation process is very fluid, taking into account a storm’s projected path and forecast intensity. 

As these aspects change over the hours, so may the airport’s plans. The overriding factor on determining when to curtail aircraft activity is safety; safety of aircraft and passengers, and safety of airport personnel. Airport and airline representatives will meet to review conditions and to determine what stance each airline’s flight management department proposes to take. Each airline will make flight cancellation decisions based on their internal policies. Again though, as the storm conditions change, so may the airlines’ decisions. Once the airport is made aware of cancellations, we will provide the information to the news media for dissemination.

Even though much of the decision making focuses on the airlines and their internal policies, Airport management will continue to monitor the situation to determine if cancellation times need to be adjusted forward. Airport management only “closes” the facility when we can no longer ensure the condition of the airfield or emergency response capabilities.

Again, each storm is continually evaluated as it evolves and the airport’s plans are adjusted accordingly. There is not a single set of rules to go by. A minimal storm may allow operations until just before landfall, while a major storm may require cancellations or a facility closure well in advance.

Summary Of Destructive Weather Types

Type Weather Wind Speed
Storm* 48 mph or greater
Tropical Storm ** Sustained winds of 34 - 73 mph
Hurricane, Category 1*** Sustained winds of 74 - 95 mph
Hurricane, Category 2 Sustained winds of 96 - 110 mph
Hurricane, Category 3 Sustained winds of 111 - 130 mph
Hurricane, Category 4 Sustained winds of 131 - 155 mph
Hurricane, Category 5 Sustained winds of above 155 mph
Tornado F0/F1 Max winds less than 113 mph
Tornado F2/F3 Max winds less than 206 mph
Tornado F4/F5 Max winds greater than 206 mph

* Issued for maritime and land areas to permit timely action to secure equipment such as aircraft, vehicles, ground equipment, construction material and work-stands, etc.

** Tropical Storms are low-pressure systems that originate over tropical waters. These systems have well-deserved reputations for their unpredictability. Damaging winds, tornadoes, flooding and storm surge are the more severe aspects of these systems.

*** Hurricanes are low-pressure systems that originate over tropical waters. These systems have well-deserved reputations for their unpredictability. Damaging winds, tornadoes, flooding and storm surge are the more severe aspects of these systems.



Warning/Condition Time Until Storm Hits
Storm Condition IV within 72 Hrs.
Storm Condition III within 48 Hrs.
Storm Condition II within 24 Hrs.
Storm Condition I within 12 Hrs.

* Time before tropical storm force winds (34 MPH) are reached at the Pensacola International Airport.


Other than tornados, hurricanes are probably the most unpredictable and destructive weather that will be experienced in the Pensacola area. Timing of planned actions depends upon many factors such as the category of storm and speed of movement. Therefore, the following are just estimated planning times of various actions that will be taken should a hurricane threaten the Pensacola area.

The estimated time in hours before tropical storm force winds are reached at the Pensacola International Airport for the indicated actions to take place.

The estimated time in hours after the hurricane’s destructive winds allow for an all-clear and recovery operations are anticipated to take place.

T-72 hours

Initial meeting and weather briefing. Some discussion of anticipated timelines and track forecast. Review plan specifics and begin making preparation efforts. Logistics should be in place or underway, employee schedules and tasking well understood.

T-48 hours

Second scheduled tenant meeting to review preparation progress and ensure coordination of details. Staff anticipates closing facility and potential times are discussed but not publicly disseminated.

T-24 hours

Third scheduled tenant meeting with specific guidance and commitment to terminal closure time. Final preparations being made to include cutoff for commercial flights. Media notifications begin.

T-12 hours

Airport terminal will be closed to public. Final storm preparations including the securing of ground equipment and jetways in progress. Tenants must check out with Airport Operations and discuss placement of equipment. Time is necessary for forecast errors, allowance for employees to make home preps, and provide a safe window for ground travel for passengers who cannot fly.

T-8 hours

Terminal building closed to all non-essential personnel – Police barricades in place. All tenants must vacate premises or notify AOC with the specific number of people and names of who is remaining (non-terminal). Airfield is NOTAM closed when the operating environment can no longer be guaranteed.

R+1 hours

Initial damage assessment of airfield operating environment and vital infrastructure begins. Communication is restored, necessary support systems readied.

R+4 hours

Airport maintenance staff and others arrive and widen inspections of particular components and systems. Priority goes to what is required to resume flight operations such as debris removal.

R+8 hours

All resources are dedicated to recovery efforts on airfield and prioritized elsewhere to minimize further damage. Some damage assessment information available through AOC (private phone number). Tenant representatives may call and/or respond back to terminal for recovery efforts based upon actual situation. References will be made to the predefined list of tenant representatives included in destructive weather plan. General employees may not be allowed in. Reopen times for terminal and airfield are calculated. Deployment of support companies and contractors underway.

R+24 hours

Comprehensive damage assessment completed. Areas opened as conditions dictate to general employees and/or public. If repairs require closure, tenant meetings resume every 24 hours for updates and progress discussions. Media coordination of opening times – resumption of public services such as parking / rental cars on going.

Follow Us