North Carolina State Fair

State Fair has command center for severe weather

Posted October 19, 2011

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— If severe weather hits the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, officials have an emergency plan. 

During the North Carolina State Fair, an emergency management command center has been set up to keep track of developing weather with hourly updates from the National Weather Service, live radar maps and a device that warns of nearby lightning.

If severe weather is approaching, crews will put out the word through staff radios and the public address system at the fairgrounds.

Wake County Sheriff’s Maj. Chip Hawley said emergency officials have identified which buildings and tents can sustain high winds.

“All these things have been identified, so we can place people where they’ll be the safest,” he said.

Powers Great American Midways, the company overseeing the rides, said they are secure, inspected and built to operate in wet weather. The rides didn’t budge this summer in New York when an earthquake hit, they said. Last weekend in Goldsboro, high winds only forced a few rides to close.

“We had wind gusts close to 60 miles per hour, which is dramatic. We stopped the taller rides,” said Charlie Belknap of Powers Great American Midways.

The fear of severe weather at fairs became more prevalent after a storm blew threw the Indiana State Fair earlier this year causing a concert stage to collapse, killing seven and injuring dozens. 

"What happened in Indiana did raise our front-of-mind awareness, and it’s very fresh, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been dealing with weather at the fair for years," fair spokesman Brian Long said.

State Fair is ready for severe weather State Fair is ready for severe weather

If severe weather hits, the fair does not want fairgoers to run for shelter under any small tents. Officials said people will be ushered to a building or some of the bigger tents, like the Got to Be NC tent, which is built to withstand 70 mph winds.

The fairgrounds also have an emergency plan for when the fair isn't happening. 

When tornadoes hit Raleigh on April 16, fairgrounds police ushered everyone attending the Raleigh Flea Market into the basement of the Dorton Arena. 


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  • mesocell Oct 20, 2011

    Humm.... I wonder if they are using Thorguard or ESID for the early lightning warning & detection.

  • Made In USA Oct 19, 2011

    Cary's Lazy Daze event this year was cancelled due to windy weather. It was scheduled to be on the day a tropical storm from down south came thru the area. Like the Fair, they had tents all over, and high winds and tents are not a good thing to combine.

  • Made In USA Oct 19, 2011

    The State Fair should contract this service out to wral. wral has the BEST weather coverage in the entire state.

  • mmtlash Oct 19, 2011

    I recall one year I went to the fair after a rainy day and seeing all the black power cords on the ground, some in puddles, made me nervous but I don't recall hearing stories about folks getting electrocuted so I'm assuming it's safe (even though it may not look safe)

  • 007KnightRider Oct 19, 2011

    Powers Great American Midways, the company overseeing the rides, said they are secure, inspected and built to operate in wet weather.

    ^Wow, Powers puts everyone at risk of electrocution.^ It's all about the money.

    During high winds still seek shelter don't hide under a tent. You could be hit by those heavy poles or even impaled. Take no chances, run....

  • hunter38 Oct 19, 2011

    Command Center?? LOL...really? Yeah that tent will do just fine.

  • SueInNC Oct 19, 2011

    Sorry, but I wouldn't take any chances...not worth your life or the lives of your children. Tents? Umm, no thanks.