Winds tear through Forty Fort festival
Last Modified: March 29. 2013 10:49AM
FORTY FORT – Strong winds flattened tents, tossed a mobile bandshell like a toy and flipped two airplanes at the Wyoming Valley Airport next to the field where the Forty Fort 125th anniversary fair was set up Friday afternoon.
The damage delayed the opening of the fair for a couple of hours as volunteers, work crews and vendors cleaned up the debris and set up their tents and stands on a section of the Luzerne County Fields off Wyoming Avenue.
“The show will go on. We will prevail. We are Forty Fort proud,” said Kristin Giordano, chairwoman of the fair, amid a flurry of activity on the soggy grass field bathed in sunlight around 4 p.m.
About an hour earlier a storm rolled through the Wyoming Valley and some thought a tornado hit.
But Mike Nadolski, a hydro meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton, N.Y., dismissed those accounts.
“We have had some sporadic reports. We heard about the bandshell being tossed,” said Nadolski.
The NWS was in contact with Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency and the 911 center. He added, however, there was nothing remarkable weatherwise, “just thunderstorms with strong winds.”
One person was injured when the beer tent was blown down, said Forty Fort Mayor Boyd Hoats Jr. But the man, a borough fire chief, declined medical treatment.
Hoats and another man assisted in the cleanup and carried one of the tent’s metal support poles bent in a V from the force of the wind.
The tent had been positioned near the bandshell, a stage on wheels with a roof, at the opposite end of the field from the amusement rides. But the bandshell, on loan from Wilkes-Barre, lay on its roof exposing its underside and wheels. Several large gashes were left in the rear exterior wall from a mobile generator that was pushed into the bandshell.
Tony Thomas, a former Wilkes-Barre councilman, surveyed the damage. “I think it’s in pretty rough shape,” he said.
The city would have to determine if the frame was bent and whether the bandshell could be repaired. It was booked all summer long for fairs, bazaars and outdoor events.
A twisted stack of metal remained of Ruth Casey’s face-painting stand.
“It completely mangled the tent,” said Casey.
She planned to return and reopen her business, Just Plain Crazy Face Art, today, saying “I can’t paint without lights.”
A few feet away, Mike Jagodzinski checked out the trailer where he sold potato pancakes, noodles and cabbage and pierogies.
Jagodzinski, who operates as Yogi’s, said his trailer was left untouched.
“Look at the trailer,” he said pointing to the bandshell. “That’s unbelievable. That’s 15,000 pounds right there.”
Close by workers from S&S Amusements grappled with the bent metal frame of what had been an umbrella for a kiddie carousel located in the middle of the rides at the west end of the field.
Steve Swika III, co-owner of S&S, joined a crew of workers shutting down and securing the damaged carousel.
“We’re going through every ride one at a time and make sure everything is safe before they open,” said Swika.
Behind a chain link fence about 100 yards from the fair, two prop planes at the airport lay on their roofs.
Lester Nothnagel of Exeter was securing his ultralight aircraft when the storm blew in. He sought cover in his pickup truck and positioned it to protect his aircraft. While doing so he saw one of the planes tumble upside down.
Wind-driven hail pelted his truck and he thought his windows were going to break, he said.
Nothnagel thought his truck was going to roll too in the wind. “I was moving. It moved my truck five feet,” he said.