Afternoon frenzy at Heartland Park as fans head home

Anticipation of the storm Sunday afternoon sent thousands of NHRA fans packing up and heading home from Heartland Park.

When the drag races ended Sunday afternoon, the races to go home began.

Ron Spencer says with dark clouds forming overhead and a tornado watch in effect, he’s running for cover.

“My wife has been texting and she’s saying you better get out of there now, so we are in a toot to get home,” Spencer says.

Others changed plans to escape the storm.

“Well, we were supposed to stay until Monday but we decided to go home tonight because we figure we don’t want to stay because of severe weather,” says Emma Washam from Missouri.

Some, like Shane Haight, are doing the opposite and braving the storm overnight.

“As soon as the traffic dies down we’re going to move the motor homes over to the tunnel and if it’s real serious we’re going to get in the tunnel,” Haight says.

Director of Emergency Management for Shawnee County, Dave Sterbenz, says everyone should have a plan.

“We tell people, make a plan, be ready, practice the plan, so if you’re planning on staying here tonight, be prepared for what might happen and know what your secondary means is going to be.”

He adds the first storm of the season is usually tricky.

“It’s like until we have the first storm of the year, people just are kind of like oh, we’ll be okay,” Sterbenz says. “Too many people run outside in these storms and unfortunately it can cause a lot of damage and fatalities.”

Spencer thinks back to two years ago – the deadly tornado that destroyed much of Joplin passed by Heartland Park first.

“Two years ago was terrible, we were all up at the main building, a number of campers here on the same side ended up there, I had three grandsons and a friend of theirs with us,” Spencer says.

Although Shawnee County has shelters for after an emergency, Sterbenz says there are no public shelters available during a storm.

He encourages people to take cover in their basement and if you don’t have one, call a friend or family member who does.

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