I hate getting my feet wet but as my mud-caked sneakers dry by the door of my warm, dry hotel room and my spiffy green AVweb shirt dries on a hanger, my pruny toes are of little consequence. Out at Lakeland Linder Airport, the cleanup is already well under way as vendors, show volunteers and some unfortunate fly-in attendees assess the damage and then roll up their sleeves. The show must go on.
I was having lunch with Cessna's VP of Communications Bob Stangarone when the tent structure that serves as a dining room started to flex ominously, a torrent of rain and hail flew horizontally and lightning erupted like strobes at an Aerosmith concert. It was time to go somewhere else.
The food folks threw open the door to the kitchen, a concrete block building, and about 50 of us took refuge as the most intense storm I've ever seen pounded the place. Cell phones came out and most of us called loved ones to report our safety and relative comfort. Outside, it was a different story. I heard one account of a mother holding a baby huddling under the wing of an aircraft, unable to move. An exhibitor hauled them into the safety of a cargo trailer. Other stories of heroism will emerge as we cover this story through the week.
And that brings me to the point. As I sit here in the hotel a few hours after the storm, my only discomfort is that the TV doesn't work. It's pouring rain and the thunder and lightning haven't let up. Out at the field, displays are being rebuilt, wrecked airplanes are being moved and hundreds of portapotties are being lifted upright.
It will take all night to make the site safe and attractive and they're doing it for you. This was a dramatic event and we had to cover it as such but, thanks to the hordes of people working out there, Sun 'n Fun will open on schedule Friday and it promises to be a great day.
If you were planning to come but the storm is causing doubts, please don't let it. Weather for the weekend is forecast to be ideal and if ever there was a time for the aviation community to show some unity and support, this is it. Sun 'n Fun needs you and is doing everything it can to make sure you have a great time this weekend.
See you there.