Scroll to the bottom of this page to see photos from the 2008 Farm Science Review.
LONDON, Ohio — Farm Science Review Manager Chuck Gamble and Assistant Manager Matt Sullivan were giving Bob Moser, Ohio State University vice president and dean of the ag college, a VIP tour of the show grounds Sunday afternoon, Sept. 14, when the first tent collapsed in the wind.
As they watched from inside a van, other tents started to flap loose from their moorings, as the remnants of Hurricane Ike hovered over Ohio, creating sustained winds of 54 miles per hour and occasional gusts of 75 mph.
One after another, tents buckled and caved in. Plastic trash barrels flew across the Molly Caren Agricultural Center like missiles. Single unit portable restrooms flipped over.
The trio made the decision to call a mandatory evacuation of the Review grounds and Madison County Sheriff’s Department personnel entered the grounds by 4 p.m. to spread the word. Exhibitors, volunteers and Review employees were forced to leave.
When Gamble and Sullivan ventured back outside at 7 p.m., everywhere they looked, they saw tents on the ground, including the huge 60-by-150 tent that houses the Vice President’s luncheon on Tuesday during the Review. In all, Sullivan estimated 275 of 300 tents were either completely or partially collapsed.
There were no reports of personal injury and the only damage reported to equipment was a broken window on a tractor because its door was not completely latched and it flew open in the gale, Sullivan said.
The 12 tent companies supplying the Review — including out-of-state firms from Indiana and Illinois — were called to come back to the grounds by 8 a.m. Monday, or as soon as possible.
Exhibitors lined up at first light to get back on the grounds, and by 8 a.m. they were given the all-clear to start their own cleanup efforts.
The Review focused on basic necessities for exhibitors and visitors: food and restrooms. The food vendor tents that had been stocked and ready to feed people on Monday were given first priority by the tent companies, and by 10 a.m., those tents were back up. Sanitation companies replaced the single-unit and handicapped restrooms that had been flipped over.
“It was a concerted effort to get the show back in some semblance of order,” Sullivan said.
The Review office fielded phone calls from OSU Extension staffers offering their services, and calls from Farm Bureau volunteers willing to come and clean up. Commercial exhibitors loaned display equipment and manpower without question, Sullivan said.
“I had never seen anything like this. It was an army of one,” he said, adding that probably three days’ work was completed in one day.
By 3 p.m., Review officials announced the show would open on time at 8 a.m. Tuesday, although the Vice President’s Luncheon, with a guest list of 600+, was canceled.
Tent companies stayed on the grounds well after dark Monday, one firm staying until 3 a.m. and returning on Tuesday to continue working in the background, folding up tents and picking up piles of bent poles.
“Everybody kind of worked together,” agreed Steve Detrick, national manager for shows and exhibits for Deere & Company, which lost a 40-by-60 tent in its off-site staging area, and other tent poles broken or bent, but nothing major in the wind storm.
“It was pretty bad when you think about what was going on,” Detrick said, but complimented the Review personnel for their emergency management plan and cleanup logistics.
“There’s a really great management crew here.”
Gov. Ted Strickland declared a state of emergency as a result of the sustained winds and resulting damage. Massive power outages and incident-related debris impacted all 88 counties. At the peak of the outage, an estimated 2 million residential and business customers were without power.
Early reports indicate seven people have died as a result of the storm, five killed by falling trees and debris, one electrocution and one drowning.