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Fairgoers avoid potential catastrophe
Nahreman Issa, ctvedmonton.ca
Published Sunday, July 19, 2009 7:43PM MDT
Twisted metal poles, shredded flags flying in the air and trees strewn about the midway grounds are the remnants of the freak storm that wreaked havoc on Capital Ex Saturday night.
The cleanup started early Sunday morning for Northlands crews as they rushed to get the grounds ready before doors opened to the general public at noon.
The fun at the fair was over around 10 p.m. when the midway resembled the backdrop of a horror movie. The skies blackened, the wind started howling and rain and hail showered down on the more than 80-thousand people who pack the midway on any given night.
Witnesses recalled the scary evening to CTV News, saying many people were starting to panic.
"There were some people who were having panic attacks," said Rezza Shater, a midway employee. "The person in the stand right next to me didn't know what to do. She's 15-years old and just very scared and panicky."
The strong winds started to take its toll on pieces of equipment and trees on the grounds.
"We just hear this huge gust of wind," said Shater. "My stand starts shaking. I look back and this tree goes down, hits this tree and takes this tree out."
"Everyone just started screaming and running," continued Shater. "It was just chaos all over just from the gust of wind."
Weather updates were announced throughout the night over the PA system and all midway rides and the outdoor stages were shut down as a safety precaution.
While there were only a few minor injuries on the night, many were afraid they were in the grips of a potential tornado.
"There was definitely a panic in the mind of the people," said Ray Brook, a concession stand worker.
"When the lightning and the wind struck at such a velocity," said Brook. "The people were running to the Agricom entrance because they were scared the trailers or flags or something would be blowing over."
Hundreds were stranded at the LRT station when wind knocked down an LRT line, causing the trains to be shutdown.
Northlands officials say the midway is back to normal and all rides and concession stands should be up and running.
-With files from Erin Isfeld