2010 Central American and Caribbean Games Opening Ceremonies Postponed

The Puerto Rico Daily Sun reports that “it just took less than 20 minutes to undo months of preparation as tornado-force winds forced the postponement of the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Central American and Caribbean games,” which were to start at 7:00pm yesterday, Saturday, July 17. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

What was believed to be a waterspout, or a tornado over water, was later described by the National Weather Service simply as extremely high winds. Felipe Pérez, president of the Games Organizing Committee reported that 25 people were injured by the winds, with one worker having to have his hand amputated. [. . .] Police units, local and state emergency vehicles and paramedics quickly responded to the alert and within minutes had the situation under control.

A group of 190 students who were to participate in the inauguration ceremonies of the Games were unhurt, acting Education Secretary Jesús Rivera Sánchez confirmed. The Camp 2010 youngsters were on their way to the Central American Stadium when the winds knocked over a set of stage lights causing severe damage and pandemonium. After the incident, they were rushed back to the Beaux Arts Training Center in Aguadilla, where they are currently staying.

[. . .] Everything seemed ready for the torch to be lighted as scheduled, when at 12:30pm, a strong wind current associated with a tropical wave suddenly hit this northwestern coast, violently uprooting tents, poles and lighting equipment in its path. When it was all over, around 12:54, the Central American Stadium, site of the opening ceremonies, had suffered enough damages to force a postponement, now scheduled for today [Sunday] at 5 p.m.“It came out of nowhere,”  said José Matos, a local consultant who witnessed the event. “I saw people trying to run but they couldn’t because of the intense wind. I was standing on the boulevard and saw tents turn over like paper airplanes. A two-story ladder fell nearby. Everything was violent.” Wind gusted up to 75 mph in constant currents, according to Israel Matos, director of the National Weather Service in San Juan.
Although the mood at CAC headquarters was noticeably sober, spirits were buoyed by the relatively low number of major incidents reported. [. . .] Infrastructure damage is still being evaluated. But early estimates point toward an excess of $1 to 1.5 million. The stadium was hit particularly hard, especially the tarps and light sets that would have illuminated the arena later on. The adjacent boulevard also received part of the brunt of the wind.

Tourists were not immune to the effects of this atmospheric disturbance.“I was climbing out of my taxi and ready to go to the boulevard park to lie low until the inaugural ceremony when the winds hit me in the face,” said Carlota Alribaro, a Panamanian law student on her first trip to the island. “They told me about hurricane season, but no one told me about tornadoes,” she said with a guffaw.  “And this pattern sure looked like one.” While Alribaro seemed poised in the aftermath, other foreign visitors did not looked particularly thrilled. “We saw the sign rushing towards us. It was terrifying,” added Jose Valdemar, a 33-year-old businessman from Colombia, on his third visit to Puerto Rico. “I had been here before, but not to the west coast. My wife and I thought it would be a great vacation to be at the Games, but now I’m not so sure we plan to stay.” Both tourists concurred that what they had been told was a waterspout was an impressive phenomenon.

For full article, see http://www.prdailysun.com/news/Opening-ceremony-interrupted-by-nature

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