When the stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair on Saturday, August 13, fair officials and Governor Mitch Daniels were quick to blame a “fluke storm” for the 70 miles per hour gusts that toppled the stage and scaffolding and sent it crashing into the crowd, killing six and injuring dozens more.
A spokesman for the fair, Andy Klotz, described the tragedy as a “freakish act of God,” and said that he didn’t see a way in which it could have been prevented.
That description is now being challenged by meteorologists at the Weather Channel. Editorial meteorologist Tim Ballisty of Weather.com called comments describing the storm as a fluke as showing a “lack of knowledge” about the workings of storms. He said that the storm system had been building for several days and even the big gusts that ultimately caused all the damage, injuries and deaths should have been anticipated by those whose job it is to predict weather.
According to Ballisty, gusts in front of thunderstorms — particularly the type of organized storms as were seen that Saturday night — are quite common. In fact, they usually occur several minutes before the actual lightning, thunder and rain of the storm hit.
Although officials did announce a possible postponement of the show to the 12,000 people who were eagerly awaiting a performance by country band Sugarland, Ballisty said that the action taken by the fair wasn’t nearly enough and decisive action, including evacuation, should have been promptly taken to ensure the safety of the concert-goers.
Despite his previous claims that nothing could have been done, Klotz confirmed this statement, admitting that the fair had not followed its own documented procedures for severe weather emergencies. So what should have been done? According to the plan that was in place, the fair should have announced to the fans that there had been an announcement from the National Weather Service warning of severe thunderstorm activity in the area. Following these statements, however, Klotz announced that he would no longer be giving any more interviews pertaining to either the weather or the timeline of events.