August 31, 2008

Hurricane-Force Winds Hit Arizona

By The Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) - A series of fast-moving thunderstorms packing winds of up to 100 mph plowed through the Phoenix area, leaving tens of thousands without power, damaging several airliners and collapsing a brand-new college football facility.There were no immediate reports of injuries from Thursday's storms, which were a particularly intense episode of Arizona's summer "monsoon" season.About 500 travelers were forced to spend the night at Sky Harbor International Airport, where damage was reported to terminals, cargo areas, electrical systems, jetways and aircraft, spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher said.The airport was shut down for about an hour during the height of the storm, which dumped up to 1 1/ 2 inches of rain and three-quarter-inch hail in some areas.Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said three of the company's Boeing 737 jets were damaged. Two were quickly repaired and put back in service. A third, damaged when a baggage belt blew into the side of the plane, was still being repaired Friday afternoon.Airport officials said three United Airlines jets, an Aeromexico plane and aircraft from commuter carrier Mesa airlines also were damaged.Flight continued into Friday afternoon because flight crews were kept late and might have worked the maximum number of hours allowed.In Tempe, Arizona State University officials said the storm damaged the school's new $8.4 million indoor practice facility, which is used mostly for football.

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