New CPC outlook: Warm Fall ahead? State Fair preview

The latest 90-day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center is in, and the news may be welcomed by Minnesotans who want an extended mild season this year.

According to CPC, odds favor warmer than average temperatures through November in Minnesota. A broad swath of the central USA favors above average temps, from the western Great Lakes southwest to Arizona.

Here’s the outlook released today by CPC:

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Stay tuned.

State Fair Weather Preview:

It’s hard to believe the Minnesota State Fair starts in just a week!

Here’s an early look at the possible weather for the opening days of the fair. Keep in mind this can and may very well change 1 week in advance, so I won’t get into too many specifics here.

Rather a general overview of what I’m seeing on the models for late next week looks like this.

Thursday through Sunday: (August 25th-28th)

Thursday & Friday: Plenty of sun, warm & increasingly humid. Highs in the 80s. Excellent “summery” weather for the first two opening days? Snow cone weather.

Saturday & Sunday: Chance of showers & T-Storms Saturday? Cooler & drier Sunday. Highs upper 70s. Umbrellas & cheese curds?

Indiana State Fair stage collapse: Could it happen here?

The video we’ve seen from the deadly stage collapse at the Indian State Fair during a severe thunderstorm is dramatic and tragic. Many are asking could it happen here?

Let’s break down what we know about the cause of the collapse, and the severe weather potential at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

First Indiana. Former Twin Cities meteorologist Chikage Windler (Now with WTHR in Indy) did a nice interview with structural engineer, meteorologist and tornado damage expert Tim Marshall at the damage site.

The bottom line? We don’t; yet know whether or not sub-standard construction played a role in the collapse. Estimates have put wind gusts at 50-70 mph during the event. You’d think a stage would be designed to withstand those kinds of gusts.

To my (admittedly non-expert) eye, the huge, heavy and “sail like” awning on top of the stage supports looks like the main problem. It seems to heavy for the support structure, and may have acted like a wind foil ripping away at the supports before crashing to the ground.

Take a look at the video in Chikage’s piece.

It will take months to determine what specifically caused the stage came down, and if anything was improperly secured.

The real take away for me here is this. Officials at the Indiana Fair had ample warning time to evacuate the stage area. The NWS issued a severe thunderstorm warning for area at 8:39pm, a full 10 minutes before the stage collapsed!

Minnesota State Fair has had severe weather in the past:

Severe weather season in Minnesota peaks in late June, well before State Fair time rolls around. Still, severe thunderstorms are quite possible during the 12 day fair run.

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General Scene at the Fair Around 1900

Courtesy: Minnesota Historical Society

There are recent historical occurrences of severe wind damage at the Fairgrounds, some of which has fortunately occurred before the fair began.

Details from the Minnesota Climate Working Group:

“The largest rain event in the State Fair’s history was 4.06 inches on August 30, 1977. At 8:20 pm heavy rains hit the State Fair. The U of M St. Paul Campus climate observatory ½ mile north of the fairgrounds saw 4.06 inches of rain. This caused some of the worst street flooding seen at the fairgrounds. The bulk of the rain fell in a 3 1/2 hour period from 8:15pm to 11:45pm. The grandstand show was cancelled, and people had great difficulty trying to leave the fair. The Twin Cities International Airport saw 7.28 inches from this event, second only to the 1987 ‘Superstorm.” People driving on I-94 leaving the fair found water “up to their hood ornaments” in low areas under bridges.

The peak of severe weather in the Twin Cities happens in June, but severe storms can and have happened during the State Fair. As recently as 2007, just two weeks before the fair was to start, a thunderstorm with high winds estimated to 67mph hit the fairgrounds. Below is an excerpt from Storm Data on August 11, 2007.

A long and wide swath of damaging wind extended from just west of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights to the northeastern corner of the city of St Paul. Approximately 4000 trees were felled. Affected neighborhoods were St. Anthony, Como and Phalen. The worst damage was in the Como Park area, where many trees fell on houses, vehicles, sheds and garages. One tree crashed into a house and destroyed it. One man was injured when a window blew in on him. At the State Fair, part of the grandstand roof was torn off, and roofs were also torn off some exhibition buildings. Dozens of vendor booths were blown around, with many severely damaged. The damage was oriented from west to east. At one point shortly after the storm, XCEL Energy reported over 250,000 outages across the Minneapolis-St. Paul region.

On August 17 1940, a severe windstorm hit the fairgrounds one week before it opened and blew down tents and damaged equipment on Machinery Hill. One of the tents downed was a block long “big top” tent that housed the International Havester Co. farm implements. Persons on the hill escaped injury.”

Severe weather can occur at the fair. The plan is to have Fairgoers evacuate into the many sturdy permanent structures at the Fair.

My biggest concern at the fair is lightning, which can strike with little/no warning.

Stay weather aware as you stroll around the fair this year!


  • Tyler

    I used to work in the live event world – never for a staging/roofing company, but always for the company that would supply the sound and lighting systems. To my eyes, there were 2 big mistakes here – 1) the area around the stage should have been completely clear of people simply as a precaution, and 2) as far as I can tell, the roof tarp was *tied* to the aluminum support structure. It probably should have been attached with bungee cords. In the event of high wind, they’re more likely to snap, releasing the tarp.

    Which begs the question: what’s worse, a football-field sized tarp blowing around, or $200,000 worth of speakers, lighting, and trussing falling on people?

    PS – There may have been one minor mistake. Concert roofs should ALWAYS have steel cables from the roof corners to concrete ballasts, essentially holding down the roof. The videos I’ve seen haven’t been hi-rez enough to see them.