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Tornado rips through Sun ‘n Fun air show

April 1, 2011, Lakeland, Fla. - Strong storms and at least four confirmed tornado sightings have swept through Polk County, causing major damage, minor injuries, and the cancelation of the Sun 'n Fun event for the day.


April 1, 2011
By Carey Fredericks

Police said strong winds blew through at noon, causing a large tent to collapse with several people under it.

National Weather Service employees issued this statement after reviewing the damage:

From the damage surveyed, it was evident that severe straight-line winds impacted the airport, however, a convergent pattern of debris was found on the western end of the runway. Damage supported 75 mph downburst thunderstorm winds with a brief tornado impact 30 yards wide at the west end of the runway. Damage is consistent around 95 mph. (EF-1) Tornado impact at 12:05 pm.”

According to Polk County Public Safety officials, the roof of the tent collapsed at the Lakeland Linder Airport with 70 people inside.

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Officials reported seven people who were under the tent were transported to the Lakeland Regional Medical Center for treatment.

Those people were treated for minor injuries.  No one was seriously injured.

Police said the damage is extensive, with flipped planes, tents torn apart and trees that landed on recreational vehicles.

"We came for Sun 'n Fun, but what we got was wet and wild," said St. Petersburg resident Kevin McCloud.

Emergency officials say some additional temporary structures blew away and at least 40 planes were damaged. One plane even landed in a pond, police said.

All events at Sun 'n Fun are canceled for the day and there is currently an evacuation of everyone attending the event.

There had been some rumors that a building had collapsed and trapped people inside. Police say this is false, but some major property damage has been reported.