Call it a test-case scenario.
A severe storm forecast to hit Goshen Thursday night mostly dissipated. Nonetheless, Elkhart County 4-H Fair officials took precautions in advance of when the storm was due to hit.
“Was the storm bad? No,” 2012 fair president Jack Lengacher Jr. said late Thursday. “But I think everybody did extremely well and executed the safety plans that we had. From my perspective, I’d rather have a false alarm and see everything work well then have a bad storm and have everything work really bad.”
Lengacher said crews had advance warning of severe weather thanks to monitoring Accuweather.
“We had 45 minutes notice,” he said.
Shortly after 9 p.m., an announcer at the tractor/truck pull event told the grandstand crowd that a storm was heading in.
“Folks, we are not telling you to leave,” was heard over the PA system. “This is not an evacuation.”
Nonetheless, attendees began to exit. And fair officials did evacuate the grandstands a short time later when lightning was spotted.
Lengacher said the stands were emptied in around 16 minutes.
“That was great to see that plan worked out,” he said. “That’s where our greatest congregation of people always is is the grandstands.”
Around 9:20 p.m., the fairgrounds PA network sounded the warning of a “probable approach” of a storm with high winds and heavy rain. At 9:26 p.m., the sky to the west/northwest looked nothing less than dark and wicked.
Inside the fair office, staffers including executive director Robin Haag monitored weather radar. The storm appeared to be breaking up.
Shortly before 10 p.m., Haag explained that while the grandstands were evacuated, the rest of the fairgrounds were not. However, it was being suggested that fairgoers head for their vehicles.
Though the storm didn’t turn out to be everything it was forecast to be, Lengacher said it’s better to err on the side of caution.
“Safety is our No. 1 concern,” he said.
Call it a test-case scenario.
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