Strong Storm Batters Sun 'n Fun

Damage totals millions of dollars.

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Pia Bergqvist

The scene at Sun 'n Fun at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport turned to chaos on Thursday as a strong storm hammered the show site, flipping airplanes, knocking out power to the exhibit halls, collapsing several tents, and injuring at least seven people. The National Weather Service reported confirmed tornadoes in the area, and said more than 70 people were trapped inside one collapsed tent. Even though the first couple of days of the show were largely storm free, the week continued to be defined by heavy rain that soaked the grounds the day before the festivities started and kept thousands of airplanes from arriving in Lakeland. Despite the slow start to the week, some vendors reported doing good business even with the smaller crowds. Launch events by Aspen, Piper, Garmin and Cessna generated a good deal of buzz at the show, and as the week progressed and the scattered areas of decent weather surfaced, the mood of show goers seemed decidedly upbeat. But on Thursday morning Sun 'n Fun attendees awoke to heavy rains and threatening skies before a massive storm cell swept through the area late in the morning. A tornado warning for the area remained in effect on Thursday afternoon.