Owner says tent was secured in light of forecast, no discussion to take it down

A day after pressing the Department of Education for answers about a large tent that collapsed during a science fair, we took our questions to the company that set up that tent.

Was it set up properly, and should it have been set up at all?

Three children were injured when the tent collapsed on Kapiolani Community College’s Great Lawn.

Officials with the DOE and KCC told us Monday that they did not expect the winds to be that strong, even though other outdoor events were canceled in anticipation of the storm.

KHON2 spoke with the owner of the tent company, who was as surprised as officials with the DOE and KCC.

Dan Kushner owns Hawaii Tents and Events. He says his crew set up the 40-by-100-foot tent Friday afternoon, doubling the number of stakes on each pole because they knew about the strong wind and heavy rain in the forecast.

“With those types of reinforcements, how strong of a wind gust can that take?” KHON2 asked.

“We’re conservative, so if we’re expecting winds in excess of 35 miles an hour, gusts in excess of 40, 45, let’s say, we wouldn’t put up the tent,” Kushner said.

Our Friday night forecast on KHON2 News did call for wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour.

Kushner adds that if the tent is already up and there’s a question if conditions are safe, he would contact the client — in this case the DOE — about possibly taking it down.

“Did it ever come to that point?” KHON2 asked.

“No, not in this case,” Kushner replied. “I mean, it was rainy and there was a lot of rain, I understand that, but it wasn’t windy. It wasn’t windy to that extent,” Kushner said.

We went to the National Weather Service to find out more about what caused the strong winds. Forecaster Derek Wroe says the conditions were unusual.

The winds were from the southwest instead of the normal northeasterly winds, and also from higher elevations.

“That’s why people would say, ‘Wow, the wind hit all of a sudden,’ because they really did hit all of a sudden,” Wroe said. “That wind was high up in the atmosphere and it was transported down to the surface and it hits the surface and spreads out, and it could produce quite a strong wind gust when it does that.”

Wroe says wind gusts did exceed more than 40 miles per hour. While there was no wind advisory, he says when there’s a possibility for thunderstorms, people should be wary of doing anything outside.

“If you have outdoor activities, we had a flash flood watch out. We also were calling for thunderstorms in the forecast. Right there, that means that people should have an eye on the sky,” he said.

The National Weather Service adds that thunderstorms also mean possible lightning strikes, which is another reason not to hold outdoor event during that time.

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