Making the Best of It

By Barbara A. Schmitz

Dean Gilderoy, of Scottsdale, Arizona, thought he was prepared for Friday night’s storm in Oshkosh.

“I had staked down as much as I could, and was watching
the storm come in,” he said Saturday, as he tried to dry out his belongings
before another storm came through Oshkosh. “But with the first gust of wind, my
tent pole broke.”

His tent went down with him and his belongings inside.
Gilderoy, EAA 851933, said he scurried out of the tent, and got his gear into
his plane so it wouldn’t get wet. And that’s where he slept — in his 1977 Beechcraft

“I was lucky I was by myself so there was room for me
to sleep. It was actually quite comfortable,” he said.

About 2 inches of rain fell on Oshkosh late Friday
night and early Saturday morning, accompanied by winds gusting up to 70 mph.
Besides a few overturned port-a-potties, bleachers, and signs, there was little
damage to the grounds, planes, or structures on the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Saturday’s storm started late morning and delayed many
of the mass arrivals. But with another 2 to 2½ inches of rain, it also meant
the very wet grounds became covered with pools of standing water, reminiscent
of 2010’s event nicknamed Sploshkosh.

Gilderoy said it is almost prophetic that his tent
broke. “I’ve been through a lot of storms in Oshkosh in this tent and thought
about buying a new one before I came,” he said. Now it was no longer an option.
It was a necessity.

Others weren’t quite as lucky. Some slept in bathrooms,
others in the EAA Aviation Museum, which they opened up to all campers as
weather warnings blasted over the PA sitewide.

Max Nerheim, EAA 1104953, and his son,
Thomas, of Phoenix, Arizona, abandoned their tent and took refuge in the nearby
bathrooms and shower rooms in the North 40. 
Nerheim said their tent was full of water, but their gear stayed
relatively dry since they packed most things in garbage bags, including their
sleeping bags. They, too, were going shopping for a new, better tent Saturday.

Nerheim said at one point, about 35 people were in the
bathrooms, but by 1 a.m., only about three remained. They put their sleeping
bags down in the shower room and slept.

“It was fine,” Thomas said, about sleeping in the
bathrooms. “It was actually pretty comfortable, and it was warm and dry.”

Jake Speidel, EAA 670366, of Carmel, California, said
he was at first happy to park his plane so close to the bathrooms in the North
40. But after the rain Friday and Saturday, it was evident they were in a low
spot, make that a very low spot. In fact, their spot had become “lake
property,” he joked.

But Speidel and his friends, Brian and Laurie Westover,
and their son, Luke, 9, of York, Maine, were lucky in that they had family
camping in RVs on the AirVenture grounds. They spent Friday night in the RVs and
planned to do the same on Saturday night.

Their tents didn’t handle the storm too well either,
with one ripped rainfly jammed into the plane’s aileron. “It’s the 10th time
I’ve come and the 10th time I was tenting, but this is the only time my tent
was destroyed,” Speidel said.

This was
the Westovers’ first trip to AirVenture and they weren’t going to let a little
rain, make that a lot of rain, dampen their enthusiasm.

“This is
waterfront property,” joked Brian Westover, “that you’d have to pay a lot of
money for anywhere else.”

despite the wet conditions, most visitors didn’t seem to mind. “This just makes
AirVenture more of an adventure,” Nerheim said.

Thankfully, the weather adventure should be over soon. A
flash flood warning was in effect through 10 p.m. Saturday. But the rest of the
week’s forecast called for mainly sunny skies and temperatures hovering around
80 degrees.

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