Logistics Lessons with Tents and Tornadoes

12 Jan




How do you weight your tent so it does not fly away?  Let’s find out.

I was visiting my mom last weekend and we checked out the Cape Coral Festival of the Arts happening downtown. Over 300 exhibitors were there and they all had tents. 10x10s. Side by side for blocks. Awesome.


This Art Fest was a crack den for my mom and she made it rain purchasing all kinds of yard art. I loved accompanying her and since I am an event junkie, I took photos of different tent weights (no stakes allowed since it was on a street) during our stroll. I had no idea that these photos would come in handy later that evening, when an F2 tornado blew through the area around 7pm that night. This blog writes itself sometimes!!IMG_1592

I looked on the Facebook page of the art fest Sunday morning and read that there was some damage done by the tornado, and the Rotary volunteers worked all night to clean up.

We went back to the art fest Sunday morning, so Mom could pick up “just one more thing.”  Some of the tents and exhibitors were missing, and we asked about them. Turns out one of the tents that was weighted, collected a lot of water on the roof which then dipped down into the center. The wind came under and picked the whole thing up and carried it about 20 feet.  It landed onto another exhibitor tent.  A few other unweighted tents were also lifted up from the wind. No idea how much they lost. We saw a few vacant spots on the pavement. Sad.IMG_1602

While walking around on Sunday morning. many exhibitors had their front tent flaps down and were drying off their merchandise.  I’ll call them lucky since they had a tent and some merchandise left. Some of the exhibitors I spoke to said they did take down their artwork and packed it at night.  Others told me they left some heavy items hanging on the walls and put away the rest.


hunka hunka cement

So what to do when you have tents at your walkathon and there is potential for inclement weather?

The weather forecast on Saturday had a significant potential for rain that night. They certainly did not expect a tornado. I’m not sure that staking a tent into the ground would have worked here. I’m not sure attaching weights would keep a tent from flying away that night either.


PVC pipe filled with cement and a sandbag


cement-filled PVC pipe with caps and screw-eyes

This tornado touched down few blocks north of the art fest.  If an EF2 tornadowind is up to 135 MPH, then something close to that must have been blowing near this event. I’m can only imagine if this was a direct hit.



When I was a walkathon manager, we would always setup as much as possible the night before (tents, tables, chairs, merchandise) so that we could show up in the weeeee hours the next morning to finish preparing for the walk.

The lesson I learned here for night-before-setup is to place important things low to the ground (on a tarp) under the tent. Surround this with the flat tables and chairs. If you rented tent flaps, then put them down for the evening. This should help prevent too much damage if heavy winds or rain comes that night.  Your tent company may have some suggestions since they do not want to lose their merchandise either.

The good news is that there were no injuries from the tornado and my Mom is giddy with her new yard art purchases.



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