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Sun 'n Fun Hit By Vicious Winds, Rain; Extensive Damage

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A strong storm front whipped through the Sun 'n Fun campus at about noon on Thursday, with heavy rains, hail, damaging winds, and possibly a tornado, wreaking extensive damage to airplanes and exhibits. After the brief storm passed, the site was strewn with knocked-over port-a-potties, fallen trees and branches, collapsed tents, wrecked airplanes, mud, and ankle-deep puddles. Many airplanes were turned over or smashed into tents or other airplanes, some with broken spars and extensive damage. "There was a lot of property damage," Lakeland police officer Terri Smith confirmed, "and a number of bumps and scrapes, but no serious injuries that we know of." Early reports that a building or hangar had collapsed and people were trapped inside were incorrect, she said. Those reports apparently originated from an erroneous report from the National Weather Service, according to CNN.

After the front passed, most visitors began to leave the site, as Sun 'n Fun workers and volunteers warned that another squall line was on the way, "and it's going to be even worse than the first one." By about 3 p.m., the threat seemed to have eased, and Sun 'n Fun spokesman Jim Bernegger told the media the campus would be closing down for the rest of the day and it was safe to leave. He said damage was extensive across the site. The show is expected to re-open on Friday, with clear weather predicted through the weekend.

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