After the Sun 'n Fun Storm: Accounting, Recovery

Burton announces the show will go on.

Al Struna

The violent storm that swept through the grounds of the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In yesterday left a swath of destruction but miraculously few injuries and no life-threatening ones. The economic damage, though not yet fully accounted, is great.

A number of people on the ground were injured when a tent collapsed, temporarily trapping many inside. Earlier reports of a hangar collapse were unfounded, though a 20-foot-tall metal hangar door came unhinged, a testament, if one were needed, to the violence of the storm.

Sun 'n Fun reported 11 injuries at the site, of which seven were transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, all with minor injuries.

The initial estimate is that 50 airplanes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which swept through the Sun 'n Fun grounds with little warning. We spoke with Aviat's Stu Horn, who witnessed the storm from the company trailer on the flight line and watched from mere feet away as five of the six airplanes his company brought to the show were heavily damaged or totally destroyed before his eyes.

Lockwood Aviation was hard hit, as well. At least three of AirCams on display at its flight line exhibit were destroyed, including a couple of customer airplanes and the factory demonstrator, two of which were featured in a January Flying photo feature.

The sheer number of photos and videos documenting the destruction was itself staggering. During and immediately after the event, hundreds of showgoers documented the destruction, using cell phone cameras, handheld mini cams and digital cameras, making it possibly the most thoroughly documented such event in history.

Our initial estimate of "dozens of airplanes" being damaged was on the money. By Friday morning, it looked as though 40 to 50 airplanes were heavily damaged, including a Cessna Caravan, which was flipped over onto its back in the tempest. Damage to airplanes and facilities are surely in the tens of millions of dollars. The work of local law enforcement is being roundly applauded on the day after. Lakeland Police and Polk County Sheriff personnel worked feverishly to keep showgoers safe as high winds continued to batter the grounds even after the initial devastating blow had been struck.

Law enforcement in cooperation with Sun 'n Fun shut down the show and evacuated the grounds early in the afternoon to keep attendees safe and start the cleanup. Within hours after the storm passed, Sun 'n Fun president John Burton announced that the show would go on, with all planned activities, including the Blue Angels and the Air Force's F22 Raptors, scheduled to go on as planned for Friday.

Click here for photos of the damage and the recovery.