Houston Open Air Festival Plagued by Storm + Lightning Strike Fears
The inaugural Houston Open Air Festival was unfortunately plagued by potential danger from lightning storms. On both Sept. 24 and 25, fans had to be evacuated in fear that lightning would strike the festival grounds.
Thousands of fans who came for two days of hard rock and metal left disappointed and unable to see a number of bands that didn’t end up performing. Some lucky fans were able to catch Avenged Sevenfold at the White Oak Music Hall and Starset at Raven Tower, but other bands (such as Deftones) were unable to play a makeup gig.
Sept. 25 was a different story, however, with fans being evacuated early into Day Two, forcing most of the performances to be canceled outright:
Fans were understandably pissed, but festival producer Danny Wimmer explained how he wasn’t willing to risk the safety of concertgoers:
The last thing we want to do is cancel a show, but we will not risk people getting hurt. It takes nearly an hour to safely evacuate a site—including consumers, staff, vendors, and artists–so they can get to safety before a major storm hits. So we have to make the evacuation decision more than an hour in advance, even if there is still a chance the storm might not hit.
I read all the comments on our social media, and I understand the frustrations that some people felt, but our job is to protect everyone. I don’t make the decision lightly, but I would make the same decision again. We were seeing signs of storm cells expected to be heavy until 7:00 PM, followed by another storm from the Gulf. We drill for these situations. When the decision was made to evacuate, everyone executed perfectly.
We’ve been through this kind of experience twice before—at Monster Energy Welcome To Rockville 2015 (when a tornado hit near the site) and Monster Energy Carolina Rebellion 2013—and are always committed to keeping people safe.
The elements prevented us from giving Houston the rock show it deserves, but with the support of community, we will come back bigger and better. We are committed to and are passionate about the rock community and the city of Houston.
Danny Wimmer Presents CEO Danny Hayes adds:
We spent hundreds of hours planning every aspect of Houston Open Air, but you can’t plan the weather, you can only have a plan to respond to it. I am proud of our team for making the difficult decision and then flawlessly executing our evacuation plan. In these situations, the only report I want to hear is that ‘no one was hurt.’ We’ve all heard about dangerous lightning and wind incidents at other music festivals around the world, and even saw an NFL game delayed due to lightning on Sunday, so it’s clear that weather issues need to be taken seriously.
At Germany’s 2016 Rock Am Ring Festival, lightning struck the grounds injuring over 70 people. The previous year, 33 were hospitalized after another lightning strike. These events likely weighed heavily on the minds of Houston Open Air festival producers before the decision was made to evacuate.