Organizers at the Indiana State Fair didn’t think the storm that caused 60 to 70 mph winds resulting in the collapsed stage that killed five would roll in so quickly.
“The information we had, with our meteorologist on site with constant contact with the National Weather Service, was that we had about 30 more minutes before any kind of rain or storm blew in,” fair spokesman Andy Klotz told the Early Show’s Chris Wragge on Monday.
Klotz says officials made the announcement recommending the 12,000 concertgoers waiting to see Sugarland seek shelter. Four minutes later, when organizers began evacuating the area, the gusts of wind caused the stage to collapse.
Some 48 people were taken to local hospitals.
“We were in constant contact with the National Weather Service, and we were constantly trying to figure out what was coming, when it was coming and get people to a position of safety as best we could with the information that we had,” Klotz says.
The Associated Press reports that witnesses were mixed on whether emergency sirens at the fair were set off, or proper warning was given.
Klotz says, however, that the storm was sudden and isolated, and even warning may not have prevented the tragedy.
But some meteorologists are criticizing fair officials, saying they should have evacuated earlier.
The storm “was very predictable,” AccuWeather meteorologist Mike Smith told CBS News. “We put out a warning for 60 mile-an-hour winds a full half-hour before the stage collapse occurred.”
“It’s pathetic. It makes me mad,” says groundskeeper Roger Smith. “Those lives could have been saved yesterday.”
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will attend a Monday-morning memorial on the state fairgrounds, and the festival will open after.