Yampa Valley Regional Airport has cracked down on security in response to the nation's heightened terrorism alert, but travelers haven't been dissuaded from completing their holiday plans.
"Right now, all airports have been asked to be more vigilant," Tyler Whitmore, Public Safety Director at YVRA, said.
He encouraged airport patrons to arrive two and a half hours before their scheduled departure, because additional security measures will cause delays, especially during peak travel times, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Before the heightened terrorism alert, passengers were asked to arrive two hours prior to departure.
Security at YVRA is now performing random vehicle searches and additional baggage screenings, as mandated by the Traffic Security Administration. Law enforcement officials have heightened their presence at the airport, and are performing more walk-throughs in passenger as well as security areas.
Passengers can do a few things to help speed up the check-in process, Jim Parker, Aviation Director at YVRA, said.
He recommended that when passengers approach security checks, they make sure they have no metal on their person, remove their shoes if they contain a steel shank, and empty their pockets.
Purchasing tickets online will enable one to avoid lines at ticketing, Parker said.
Actual staffing levels are no higher than usual, Whitmore said. All staff will just be on heightened awareness.
But heightened security hasn't affected the season's numbers.
"We're overbooked all the way through the holiday season," Whitmore said. About 1,800 people passed through the airport on Tuesday, and 1,500 were expected to go through on Wednesday. Christmas Day is traditionally a slow day at the airport, since most travelers have already arrived at their destination.
But officials in Moffat County aren't especially worried, Clyde Anderson, Emergency Management Officer said.
"At this point there are no specific threats," Anderson said. "At this point it's on a national level. All we know is that al-Qaida is still interested in airplanes. I don't see anything different in that that we didn't already know. There are no plans to do anything differently on a local level except be aware."
On Sunday, Tom Ridge, Homeland Security Director, raised the national terrorism threat level from yellow to orange, or from an elevated risk to a high risk. It was the first time in six months and the fifth time since Sept. 11 that the nation has been on orange alert.
"The U.S. intelligence community has received a substantial increase in the volume of threat-related intelligence reports," Ridge told reporters at a press conference on Sunday. "The information we have indicates that extremists abroad are anticipating near-term attacks that they believe will either rival, or exceed, the attacks that occurred in New York and the Pentagon and the fields of Pennsylvania nearly two years ago."
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.