Possible Culprit in Stage Disaster: 'Gustnado'

Swirling wind ahead of thunderstorm might be to blame
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 16, 2011 7:11 PM CDT
The stage collapses at the Indiana State Fair last weekend in Indianapolis.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – As Indiana officials investigate safety protocol in the wake of the state fair stage disaster that killed five, meteorologists are debating whether an obscure phenomenon known as a "gustnado" is to blame. A gustnado is a "brief wind that swirls on the leading edge of a severe thunderstorm," explains a video on AccuWeather.com. It's like a weaker "stepbrother of a tornado," forming and behaving in different ways.

An AccuWeather meteorologist analyzing video of the stage collapse says a gustnado is the culprit. "If you analyze the video, you can see that gustnado kind of coming across and moving through and everything's twirling around as it goes through," Henry Margusity tells Reuters. "I've never heard of fatalities due to a gustnado," he adds. "It happened to hit the wrong spot at the wrong time." A government meteorologist disagrees, however, and says "straight-line winds" brought down the stage. Click for more explainers on the subject.

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