Storms Disrupt Air Transportation

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Chicago, IL – A stormy week in late May grounded some trade show attendees but did not cause any significant drops in trade show attendance nationwide or damage to major convention centers. The most severe storm hit Joplin, MO, as the nation’s deadliest single tornado in 60 years resulted in the tragic death of 126 people so far and left a six-mile scar in the landscape.

At the height of the bad weather, approximately 550 flights were cancelled at O’Hare International Airport and dozens at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Delays also occurred in St. Louis and Detroit. The cancelled flights at hub cities impacted travel nationwide and internationally.

The result for show managers was some unclaimed name badges as attendees arrived late or were forced to cancel plans altogether.

“We had some cancellations, but it was not a significant factor in our attendance,” said Steve Miner, vice president, conferences & members for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The AWEA held its annual WINDPOWER 2011 Conference & Exhibition at the Anaheim Convention Center May 22-25. The show, which was ranked 29th on the current TSE Fastest 50, wrapped up on the same day a particularly strong storm system swept across the Midwest air hubs.

“The departure delays were another story,” Miner told Trade Show Executive. “A number of our European delegates had delays due to the volcano in Iceland and other delegates faced weather delays in the states.”

Attendance at RECon, the Global Retail Real Estate Convention, surpassed 30,000 and the activity on the show floor indicated the weather had minimal impact on the May 22-25 Las Vegas event, show management told TSE.

The storms largely passed outside the major downtown areas of the Midwest, allowing trade shows and convention center operations to continue without interruption. “The Midwest storms did not slow us down,” said Mary Klida, marketing and communications manager at Cobo Center in Detroit. “The major weather concerns so far have  been in the south.”

Neither Freeman nor Global Experience Specialists (GES) reported any significant problems with their operations.

The Sweets & Snacks Expo at McCormick Place was a piece of cake for organizers who rode out a storm that blew through downtown Chicago. “It really didn’t have any impact on our attendance,” said Jenn Elleck, director of trade communications for the National Confectioners Association. “The folks who attended were for the most part already in town by early Tuesday.”

The Minneapolis Convention Center was used as an assistance center for residents Twin Cities whose homes were damaged or destroyed by twisters earlier in the week.

Reach Steve Miner at (202) 383-2500 or sminer@awea.org; Mary Klida at (313) 877-870 or mklida@cobocenter.com; Jenn Elleck at (703) 225-8179 or jenn.ellek@candyusa.com