Scary day at SFGAdv 8-27-2003

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Thursday, August 28, 2003 9:24 AM
I took my parents with me to Six Flags Great Adventure on Wednesday, August 27th. For a couple years I had been hoping to take my parents to a park that I thought was above the bar. As a child, we would go to at least 2 parks per summer; we hadn't done this since my high school years. I had even tried getting us to Cedar Point two years ago, but that trip fell through. The three of us were excited that we finally got it all together for an amusement park trip.

The park was mildly crowded. The weather was sunny. Temperatures were very warm and muggy with small nice breezes.

Two hour wait for Superman. The mildest coaster in the park but new. We decided two hours wasn't good for us. Next.

Went on Medusa. I love this coaster. It was a little too bangy for my parents, especially the second just before and the extent of the course after the mid-course breaks. We hit those breaks pretty hard.

Went next on Runaway Train. It looks nice but it's rough. Maybe a little more TLC and it could be a smooth little sleeper hit in the shade. It's lovely how it dashes about the trees and the water. Just bruisingly rough.

We decided to head to Nitro; stopped at the Big Wheel on the way. Why do they fill only 12 cages out of 36 on this big wheel? I waited in line for over 30 minutes for this ride, and it could have been decreased by 60% if the ride had been running at capacity. But the ops were making sure to maximize the number of riders per each of the (again) one third of the cages they were filling. What's the deal with that? One third? 12/36.

It was getting overcast and we were stopped up at 11:00 position. The five of us sat there watching a wide dark storm system coming in from just beyond Nitro. We could see it clearly as we were above the tree tops. Okay... now it's outside of the park, Nitro still running (!)... okay, now it's over Nitro, and we're still here at 11:00 position. Lightening, folks. We were getting very nervous. The ride queue was emptied and people sought shelter. We were sheltered in our little metal cage in our big round metal lightening rod. Ten minutes. Dad was timing this.

Then we were slowly boosted to the 12:00 position. Rough wind. Dark sky. Storm was over the park, in the park. Lightening was much closer. People in the cages were shouting to the ground - no one was telling us anything and we were afraid we weren't going to be let out. We were terrified. The two riders with us in the cage were frantically trying to use their cell phone to try to reach anyone in the park to tell them we were still up in the top of the big wheel, and that there was lightening all around us. The rain started coming down. The trees were blowing into the big wheel. We weren't moving. Ten minutes.

Now we were slowly lowered to the 3:00 position. Finally, we were below tree top, but we were still nonetheless in our metal cage attached to the big round metal lightening rod known as the big wheel. We weren't feeling any safer. We couldn't see anyone really rushing to empty the cages on the ground. No one was outside. Trees still beating into the ride, people in the cages shouting and screaming. There were people still above us on the ride. Thunder and lightening and rain coming down. Seven minutes.

When we finally got to where someone opened our cage door, we bolted to the nearest shop. Not even a minute later, we heard a crash and looked out to see that a piece of metal had broken from somewhere on the big wheel, fallen, and lodged itself in the structure such that as the wheel was turning, the piece snagged under the rooves of the cages and ripped the rooves half off of the cages as they passed along.

Suffice it to say, all of this was very disturbing. Shouting + screaming + thunder + lightening + trees against rides + metal ripping. We decided to beat it out of the park and go home. It was maybe just after 2pm. I wasn't looking at my watch.

Now, I loved this park when I went in the beginning of July. Nitro is my favorite coaster. However, I don't believe I'll be returning to SFGAdv, maybe ever. I felt very afraid for my life and the lives of my parents and the other riders on the big wheel. I was disturbed that with the storm just outside of the park, Nitro kept running. I feel that the emergency weather procedures started fifteen minutes too late. I can't determine if it was power problems or poor procedures or staff negligence or what, but whatever happened, I believe there's no excuse for it. This park gets no more of my time, my life, or my money.

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"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." e.e.cummings

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Thursday, August 28, 2003 9:43 AM
Wow. We'd heard briefly yesterday on the news that the park lost power, but nothing of the sort of things you've talked about were mentioned in the news.

I'm glad you're okay.

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--Maddie--
What do I Listen-To?
May the Schwarz be with you.

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Thursday, August 28, 2003 9:53 AM
Thank you, Chernabog :-). It was very bad. I couldn't believe how long they kept the rides going with this massive thunder storm just outside the gate. A thunder storm may cause power loss too, which may have been what happened,... but therefore yet another reason to not wait until the rain starts in order to shut things down when a thunder storm comes along. It was really scary.

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"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." e.e.cummings

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Thursday, August 28, 2003 10:01 AM
Wow, scary.

I was at PKI once when a tornado-type storm hit the park. It was at night and I was back by the Beast, watching my friend's 5-year-old daughter while he was riding something with his wife. Suddenly, the blast of wind hit, there was lightning all around, the little girl had somehow slipped away from me, and scariest of all, I didn't see a single other person around.

Fortunately I found the kid like 10 seconds later and got inside a shop before the rain hit.

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A day is a drop of water in the ocean of eternity. A week is seven drops.

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Thursday, August 28, 2003 11:27 AM
Wow - yea, I question SFGAdv's weather policy too. The day I was there, the storms rolled in over Medusa instead of Nitro, but it was a similar situation. Medusa was running in the thunder until the point when the lightning was visible because it struck just outside the boundaries of the park near Medusa! And at that point, the lines were still full of people and no direction to shelter or anything was given (not that I needed it per-se, but I know that in situations like that, people can forget common sense in the face of danger from the elements). I'm sorry you had such a close brush there, glad to hear you're ok. For the record though, I don't blame SFGAdv for the storm, yours was a different situation, but when I'm on the ground and capable of moving myself, its up to me to take the proper actions. I will be returning and hopefully the storms will stay away! ;)

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Give me launched or give me ... uh ... more launched!!
--Brett

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Thursday, August 28, 2003 2:28 PM
..now that I think about it, I can recall being on Medusa in a thunderstorm as well, somewhat. We saw that rain was coming, so we ran through the line and hoped to get in a ride. As we entered the final brakes, there was an enormous clap of thunder. The train in the station was emptied of people who had just boarded and we were brought in. By that time, it was hailing pea-sized stones.

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--Maddie--
What do I Listen-To?
May the Schwarz be with you.

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Thursday, August 28, 2003 4:07 PM
The Big Wheel at a third capacity could have been for balancing reasons. If the operator puts people in one gondola, the gondola directly opposite of it also needs to have people to balance it. If the park runs the line out, there are not any people to replace the people on the ride, which would make the operator have to go around the wheel to unload evenly to keep the ride balanced, which would take a long time and could risk unbalancing the ride. When the ride gets unbalanced, the heavy side will settle on the bottom, making the operator have to fix the situation by removing weight from the heavy side and adding weight to the other side. Also this could take some time to fix. So running the ride at a certain capacity will ensure there are guests in line to replace the riders unloading and will keep the ride balanced with hardly any effort at all. OR cuz the weather was questionable that day, they could have been running it at less capacity to unload it quicker when the inclement weather occurred.

I've never been to GAdv or seen their wheel, but I operate one at the park in Denver and those are our reasons for running at less than full capacity. Ferris wheels, while looking simple, can be some of the hardest rides to operate.

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We're devils and black sheep, really bad eggs,
Drink up, me 'arties, yo ho!

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Thursday, August 28, 2003 4:28 PM
That sounds like a pretty dangerous scenario,one that SFGRADV shold've tried to avoid by unloading the ride when the ops saw the weather conditions beginning to change for the worse.

On my last visit to SFA (august 16th) we had a huge storm roll in out of nowhere & park management & ride ops did a good job of unloading rides in a safe & efficient manner,it did take quite a bit of time (2 hours after the storm passed) to re-open rides though because of a drop in power output to the park,I remember it well because I was just about to be dispatched on Wild one when they had a sudden drop in power that shut the ride down just before the storm hit.

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Friday, August 29, 2003 7:38 PM
We had a nasty storm roll through today at SFA, and we started shutting rides down early, and advised people many times over a PA system that there was foul weather coming. We closed down for quite some time, even after it seemed the storm had passed. There's an order of operation of which rides get closed first, and basically it's height related.

Erin, did you voice your concerns at Guest Relations? If there's a safety issue that you feel could've been handled better, they need to know. Perhaps you're right that someone wasn't following safety protocol when it comes to shutting down rides. GR needs to know that so it can be passed onto whoever is in charge of such operations.
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If you have a problem with clones, the solution is real simple—Stop traveling.

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Sunday, August 31, 2003 8:12 AM
Ahh yes,I do recall some of the higher ups saying that after the storm.

First to re-open are the flat rides(only those rides without substantial elevation) followed by the taller flats & last but not least the coasters.

It sounds like SFGRADV dropped the ball a bit on their emergency evacuation procedures that day,but then again aa summer storm can rear it's ugly head without warning you know & they were just caught off gaurd this time around.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2003 3:55 PM
Well in Cedar Point on July 4 there was a 50 mph tornado like storm and didn't scare one bit of me. I was mad that I was wet though! At least they shut down the rides during the storm.
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Tuesday, September 2, 2003 5:30 PM
Glad you guy's are ok! I hate it when people have bad experiences at amusement parks, It just really hits me in the heart. Your suppose to be able to go there for fun not worry about your life.....
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