I was confident that we’d have wonderful weather this weekend. Surely, the Wisconsin weather demons couldn’t wreak havoc on the major AirVenture arrivals days for three out of four consecutive years (2016, 2018, and 2019). But, I was woefully wrong. After the biggest Friday arrival day in Oshkosh history, weather alerts started coming at us from all directions. Severe weather, including thunderstorms and hail, were expected to come in soon after 10 pm. Take shelter immediately, they told us. The EAA Museum was opened for those wanting the security of indoor shelter and shuttle buses starting running from the North 40, South 40, and Camp Scholler. (I guess they figured homebuilders would prefer to go down with their ships, so to speak.) I understand that about 200 campers made use of the offer and rode out the storm in the museum. EAA repeated dire warnings over the loud speakers, the nearby rock concert stopped the music, and started continuous pleas for attendees to seek shelter, and Homebuilt campers scattered to the Homebuilt Pavilion to watch the abundant lightening to the northwest. About 10:30, the storm hit.
The wind came first, challenging the strongest of tents but, thankfully, all planes had been secured and we haven’t heard of any plane casualties. Next came the driving rain. It wasn’t outrageously strong and we didn’t see any hail (thank goodness!), but it lasted more than an hour of mostly yellow returns. Once the heavy rain passed, some slept and some worked at re-erecting their tents and put things out to dry. The good news? The temperature dropped from a daytime high of 95oF in the shade to comfortable sleeping temperature in the mid-60s.
If that incident was the end of the weather challenges in Oshkosh for the weekend, it would be recorded as a minor annoyance during the 2019 AirVenture. Unfortunately, two more storms passed through the area on Saturday afternoon. The saturated ground could no longer accept the rain so flash flooding warning were issued. The ground became saturated and tents collapsed. The damage exceeded the night before. Our two tents were damaged, including one alpine-rated one that flew a quarter mile away. Our next-door neighbor deemed his tent a total loss. Folks began to scramble for motel rooms. Fortunately, the weather kept many folks away and motels were happy to rent out previously reserved rooms.
As of Saturday night, the grass is closed to aircraft parking, which nearly closes the airport to new arrivals. The mass arrivals were initially re-scheduled to occur after the published airport closing this evening (it didn’t happen) and Sunday morning, but that information has been removed from the AirVenture website. Their status is unclear as of this writing. The highly publicized Alert text system has hardly been used in exactly the situation the EAA boosted that it would help everyone. (You can sign up for the promised arrival alerts by texting ARRIVAL to 64600, but don’t hold your breath that you will hear anything.) We hope that tomorrow is NOT a repeat of last year’s Sunday arrivals. If it is, please be patient, know the NOTAM, and be willing and happy to divert to another airport. We understand that Fond du Lac has converted its second runway to pavement parking, making it a good alternate airport.
Please, stay safe out there!