Hurricane Michael’s high winds delay State Fair opening to Friday
With high winds and heavy rain in the forecast for Thursday across North Carolina, organizers of the annual State Fair decided late Wednesday to delay Opening Day until Friday at 10 a.m.
By Thursday evening, winds could be gusting at 30 mph in Raleigh and at almost 50 mph in Fayetteville, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. Raleigh could see up to 5 inches of rain throughout the day on Thursday and into Friday, with communities to the south and west accumulating even more on already-saturated ground.
“I think it’s a good thing to take precautions with everything that’s been going on,” vendor Gino Oliveri said.
The main concern with Michael is the strong wind gusts, which could play havoc with the fair’s tents and tall thrill rides, all of which are professionally installed. Officials said if necessary, they’ll have to take down or adjust some of the smaller tents, and loose items will also be stored.
Kent Yelverton, the fair’s manager, said that although the fair won’t start until the worst of the weather has passed, any lightning strike would prompt rides to be shut down for a period of time. The future of rides during the storm is up to the Department of Labor.
“As they see what the winds will actually be, they’ll have to make that decision of whether to take them down,” Yelverton said.
Organizers considered a number of factors, including safety for visitors and workers and the chance for poor conditions across the state that make travel to the fair hazardous, before making the decision to delay.
The announcement is a disappointment for some that wait all year for the fair.
“I think it’s kind of sad because we lose a day, but I’ll come the other days,” fairgoer Lilly Wood said.
Historically, preview day is the day with the lowest attendance, so officials are hoping the economic impact will be minimal.
“I think it’s smart because then people don’t have the change to get injured during the hurricane and that flooding won’t affect it,” fairgoer Kiara McCormick said.
Yelverton said preparations will continue through Thursday so ensure that rides, vendors and exhibits are ready for the crowds to come.
He added a reminder that pre-purchased admission and ride tickets are good for any day of the fair, which runs through Sunday, Oct. 21. Advance tickets are on sale through Thursday at noon.
Local band American Aquarium was supposed to perform at Dorton Arena Thursday night as part of the fair’s Homegrown Music Series. The band announced via social media that the show will still go on - just at a new venue. They will be playing a free show at The Pour House in downtown Raleigh at 7 p.m.
After Michael has passed, clear skies and cooler days are on tap. Friday should be mostly clear with a high of only 73 degrees, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said. The weekend high temperatures will be even cooler.
“We’re hoping people have cabin fever and they’re just ready to come out and have some fun. You know they’ve been through a lot down here,” Orlandi said.