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Fair officials, meteorologists monitor severe weather for Wisconsin State Fair

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Posted at 3:56 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 18:54:14-04

MILWAUKEE — It's been all hands on deck at the Wisconsin State Fair as officials work around the clock to ensure fairgoers stay safe during severe weather conditions.

"Safety is our first priority. We have a comprehensive emergency weather program. When it's lightning, that's when we really work hard on watching the ground strikes and where are they coming from, because we have a lot of metal," said CEO of the Wisconsin State Fair Park, Kathleen O'Leary.

Monday brought mainly scattered showers to the fairgrounds, but that didn't stop families from getting in on the fun.

"We saw that it was going to rain. We brought our umbrellas, we brought our ponchos. We kind of were hoping the crowd would be a little less with the rain, but it's better to deal with than the hot sun," said one fairgoer, Kaylin Burzynski.

Fair officials say for the most part when it's just rain, the party doesn't have to stop.

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"You can duck into the colosseum and watch the shows that are going on there, you can duck into the Wisconsin products pavilion, certainly the 200,000-square-foot expositions center, or one of our many pavilions" said O'Leary.

But if they happen to deal with more severe weather, that's when they consult experts at the National Weather Service.

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"We are briefing the people that have to make the calls to try and keep people safe. Generally, there's about 30 to 45 minutes out that we have to try and let them know that this is when we are expecting some lightning or damaging winds over 20, 30 mph," said Tim Halbach, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Milwaukee.

Officials add that they want families to have a fun time at the fair, and they'll do whatever it takes to make sure they stay out of harm's way.

"Health and safety absolutely have always been our first priority, and will continue to always be our first priority," said O'Leary.

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