Stormy weather prompts fair board to look at safety plan


GREENVILLE — This week’s turbulent weather has kept people on alert, with the Darke County fair board being no exception.

The weather has caused the board and its safety committee to evaluate and solidify its Emergency Action Plan for the Darke County fairgrounds.

On Saturday, a tornado, rated an EF0, with an estimated wind speed of 76 miles per hour, touched down near Gettysburg, about 8.5 miles from the fairgrounds. Greenville was experiencing severe thunderstorms at the same time.

Saturday was also one of the biggest Junior Fair show days that had the barns filled with exhibitors, their animals, and friends and family. When the severe weather hit, many people in the barns were left wondering what the safest plan of action was for them.

Some confusion occurred when people in the barns were told conflicting information by volunteer fire personnel and were asked to evacuate to the basement of the Coliseum building or to leave the fairgrounds.

As a result Fair Manager Daryl Riffle said they had a collective safety meeting with law enforcement, emergency management, fire and rescue personnel to clarify the policy and procedures for letting fair-goers know of inclement weather.

On Thursday evening, another line of severe storms hit the region, but this time Darke County was spared. About 100 miles away, Kokomo, Indiana was hit with an EF3 tornado with wind speed up to 165 miles per hour. Indiana’s Department of Homeland Security said eight tornadoes were confirmed in the state, as of late Thursday morning.

Damage was reported in four Ohio counties as well, including Van Wert County, where officials said at least two tornadoes touched down about 2 miles apart, tearing roofs off homes and flattening barns. A tornado warning also briefly stopped the rock band KISS from “shouting out loud” during a show at Toledo, though there was no touchdown.

“We were all fortunate yesterday that we didn’t receive the weather that hit Kokomo, Indiana,” said Riffle.

While Darke County was under a Tornado Watch only on Thursday, Riffle said the information was announced on the PA system throughout the fairgrounds updating fair-goers of the current weather situation.

Riffle said weather alerts come to the fair board directly from the Darke County Sheriff’s Office who receives them from the National Weather Service. If there is a severe weather alert the fair board notifies the fire chief and rescue squad on the grounds to disseminate the information.

“Collectively the fair board makes the decision,” said Riffle.

Riffle said fair-goers need to take ownership of their own safety once they are warned of severe weather.

“They need to take necessary safety precautions based on the information given to them,” he said.

By Christina Chalmers

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