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Experts: Weather, Staging Played Roles In Stage Collapse

Last updated on Tuesday, August 16, 2011

(UNDATED) - People are asking many questions about the wind gusts that caused the collapse of the stage roof at the Indiana State Fair Saturday night but one meteorologist says they’re not uncommon before a storm.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Dave Tucek says a "gust front" came through the fairgrounds ahead of a thunderstorm that was still on its way.

Tucek says all thunderstorms are created by updrafts. The updrafts generate precipitation. The precipitation gets heavy and begins to fall to the ground, drags wind down to the ground with it. He says that wind hits the ground and flows outward and creates a gust front.

Tucek says gust fronts are very common but sometimes they are weaker than the one that came through Saturday night. He says it's also common for gust fronts to vary intensity. Wind gusts were reported earlier in the night in speedway with speeds over 70 miles per hour and at the Indianapolis International Airport around 40 miles per hour.

Tucek adds that sometimes gust fronts come immediately before a storm but they can get ahead of storms by several miles, as was the case Saturday night. He says sometimes gust fronts can get so far ahead, the storm dissipates before even hitting the area.

Roof Acted As Wing Before Stage Collapse

A Purdue aeronautics and astronautics professor says several factors led to the stage collapse at the state fair.

Professor Wayne Chen says the roof flap that tore before the collapse acted as a primitive wing, which created drag pushing the stage down.

Chen says the backscreen of the stage also played a factor, because the wind pushed against the screen, enabling the structure to topple over. He says a different structure would have helped.

He says instead of pillars, a triangular shaped structure could have helped the stage to stay upright.

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