In Case Of Severe Weather, The Tulsa State Fair Is Ready

Friday, September 27th 2013, 10:09 pm
By: Tess Maune

Earlier this month in Oklahoma City, thunderstorms rattled the Oklahoma State Fair, overturning booths and turning tents inside out. With that in mind, we found out the Tulsa State Fair has a game plan in case of severe weather.

If there's a threat of lightning, the midway shuts down. If there is a tornado warning - sirens will sound and fair visitors would be directed into one of the fairground buildings smaller rooms.

Of course, you can't stop the weather, but the state fair's staff is staying ahead of the storm.

Todd Crossland sees a lot of winners at his booth. He's worked the Tulsa State Fair every year for about 20 years. So, he has seen his fair share of Oklahoma storms roll through as well.

"If it's pretty bad, we just button down the hatches and, ya know, ride it out. It's about all you can do," said Todd Crossland. "People come out here, it doesn't matter if it's pouring down, there's still people out here on the midway having fun."

While folks are on the midway taking in the rides, games and food, Tulsa Area Emergency Management Director Roger Jolliff, is not far away monitoring Mother Nature's every move.

Jolliff says he's in constant contact with the National Weather Service and local meteorologists.

Lightning and wind are his biggest concerns.

"If it gets up over 45 approaching 50, that concerns us - ya know – 57, 85 would be considered severe thunderstorm, but when you're out here like this, much lower winds are a concern to you because there are so many people outside and lots of debris that could fly around and hurt someone," said Roger Jolliff.

On a fall night back in 2009, Jolliff says the midway had to shut down when a severe storm kicked up 60 mph winds.

"We implemented the plan then, shut down the midway for about an hour, storm passed, people went right back out to enjoy the fair. No one was injured, that's what we want," said Roger Jolliff.

As far as tents and booths go, Jolliff says there wouldn't be enough time to break them down in a severe weather event and says the priority is getting people inside, not inventory.

As most lifelong Okies know, when it comes to weather, anything is possible in Oklahoma.

"Born and brought up here, you just learn to deal with it and roll with the punches and go on," said state fair visitor Shelley Fabor.

Roger Jolliff says in a severe weather event he would never evacuate the Tulsa County fairgrounds because that would cause gridlock and make the situation more dangerous. Instead, state fair staff would order everyone indoors and Jolliff says there are 28 acres of buildings, so getting folks inside wouldn't be a problem.

Jolliff says keeping up with the weather yourself and having a plan, is a good idea too.