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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse

Everyone is talking about the mysterious wind that "came out of nowhere" during the Indiana State Fair stage collapse. But the wind didn't come out of nowhere. It was associated with a gust front! And we get them right here in Connecticut! Here is a radar image taken at 8:35 pm. The stage collapse happened about 20 mins later.

The fair grounds are circled just south of Rocky Ripple. Notice the storms are still over 20 miles away from the fair at this point. But there is a line of light blue ahead of the storms (noted by arrows). To an untrained eye, this looks like a line of light showers. But a meteorologist would immediately recognize this as a gust front. Now you will be able to identify one on a map too!

Storms take in a lot of air and lift them high into the cloud tops. When that air is lifted, it cools. Then the cool air becomes more dense than its surroundings and starts to drop like a rock. That light blue line is the leading edge of the cool air kicking up dust, debris and pollen in the air.

I don't want to talk about who is to blame in a situation like this. Some are blaming the fair, others are pointing fingers at the National Weather Service. All we can do is learn from events like this so that they don't happen again.

Big outdoor events should ALWAYS have on site meterorologist keeping an eye on things to avoid any confusion. To my knowlede, the Special Operations Commander and Fair Executive Director were monitoring the potential for incoming severe weather on a smartphone. They saw the severe storm. But the gust front went unnoticed.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy.


Anonymous said...

You are so educational, so informative that I learn something new every time you open your mouth or touch a keyboard!
JB in Canterbury

Rachel said...

You made my day JB! Thank you so much. That's the best complement anyone would ever give me. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent forward thinking tone and outlook. We can't change the past, but learn from it to apply to the future.

There are at least 2-3 major fairs every weekend in Connecticut plus numerous other outdoor concerts and other activities during the summer. Currently, state law requires minimum medical staffing for certain events of specific size. Your suggestion is interesting.

Thanks for the weather lesson!
COB, Wolcott

Rachel said...

Thanks Chris! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. It was your idea to share the topic on-air last night! It will be interesting to see if Indiana passes a law about having a meteorologist on staff at outdoor venues. I hope someone tries to bring the idea to local politicians! Then other states could follow suit.

william schwartz said...

medical staffing must have more money; you can only get so much blood out of a turnip and this one is already squeezed mightily dry.