April 1, 2011
By AOPA ePublishing staff
Sunny skies greeted Sun ’n Fun attendees in Lakeland, Fla., as the show reopened April 1 following a severe storm that temporarily shut down activities the previous day.
Sun 'n Fun President John Burton reported March 31 that 15 people were treated for injuries at Sun ’n Fun’s on-site medical hospitality center, although no major injuries were reported. Seven of those were later transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Sun ’n Fun said.
According to Burton, the storm damaged some 40 to 50 aircraft, including several of the aircraft on static display, and knocked down exhibitor tents across the grounds. But crews and volunteers as well as local health and safety officials worked through the night to ensure that the show grounds were safe and ready to open first thing Friday morning. By morning, damaged aircraft had been moved, airplanes had begun coming and going at a normal pace, and even the storm-drenched grounds had dried significantly.
With the show grounds and airport itself open and much better weather forecast for the remainder of the weekend, Burton anticipates a great airshow, including demonstrations by the Navy’s Blue Angels team.
AOPA is offering assistance at its tent for people affected by the severe weather, and encourages people to take advantage of the nicer weather rolling into the area.
“If you’re in central Florida or were planning to fly in, the best way to pay tribute to the hard work of the staff and volunteers is to come on out,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “Sun ’n Fun is open for your enjoyment!”
The supercell thunderstorm complex that hit Lakeland Linder Regional Airport spawned an EF1 tornado on the field, the National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed. The service also reported downburst gusts as high as 75 mph. While some evidence remained April 1 of the violent winds that ripped through the grounds the day before—some missing lettering on the sides of buildings, displays that were still being repaired, a spot on the field where wrecked aircraft had been relocated—the site was transformed. The Blue Angels arrived in the morning, along with an F-22 Raptor for static display.
“It’s a bright, beautiful day at Sun ’n Fun with the promise of an equally beautiful weekend in the weather forecast," Fuller blogged. “So don’t let reports of yesterday’s bad weather keep you away.”
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