The NEAT Fair in 2004 was foreshortened by an appearance of a tropical storm, formally known as Ivan the terrible, a hurricane that pounded the Gulf Coast just days before the 2004 show.
Thursday set-up day was glorious. Low winds, bright sun, and lots of flying done by the early arrivals. Late that night, the rains moved in. Friday greeted us with light rain and it stayed light most of the day. The organizers decided not to impound Tx’s that day due to the lighter than normal desire of the pilots to fly. Some brave and carefree modelers flew on the casual board well into the day. Late that day and well into the early morning, the rains came…. and came…. and came, to the tune of 1”per hour. By sunrise, though most of the heavy rains were over, the river alongside the campsite began to rise to flood stage and beyond. Access roads to the area were closed fairly early that morning by state police and fire districts. Large rocks, mudslides, and downed trees blocked many roads, some were just too flooded to pass with anything but high ground clearance 4WD’s.
When the rain stopped and the sun came out, flyers that were already at the field or managed to due some flying. The winds were brisk, but flyable. We remained on the casual board as the pilot load was light. All the while, the river continued to arise. By 2 PM in the afternoon, it had almost washed over the low parts of the access road. Shortly after that, the Downsville Fire Chief announced that everyone had to evacuate the area as the dam up-river was now over-spilling the flood control gates. They could no longer control the amount of water entering the river from at least that point.
A calm and orderly evacuation was made of the field. Though there was basically only one place to go open to the masses; Downsville, which had its own flooding problem. The organizers began to pull trailers to high ground by the campsite office. Many of these trailers were owned by vendors staying off-site. They could not get to the campsite due to the road closures.
At about 5 PM we had all the trailers and high value items moved to the campsite office area and pavilion. The river had stopped rising by then, but had flooded much of the field angle deep. Most of that water came up through the soil, not from the flowing river. We left to return to our hotels as by that time, most of the roads heading out to Rt17 were open. We did not return to the campsite on Sunday morning as some of the roads had again been closed due to more falling trees and boulders.
Despite the foreshortened event, The NEAT Fair attracted 40+ vendors and 200 pilots. Most of the donated prizes were held over for the 2005 show.