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Valleyfair's storm readiness

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Valleyfair
Visitors to Valleyfair for the season's opening day, Saturday, May 12, 2012 strolled around the amusement park.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Valleyfair amusement park  

•Location: Scott County Highway 101, Shakopee, Minn. 
 

•The park covers 90 acres; features dozens of rides and other attractions

•Typical crowd size: 5,000 visitors on a weeknight

Valleyfair
Children play in the Peanuts Playhouse Saturday, May 12, 2012 at Valleyfair in Shakopee. The windowless, concrete block building that can be used for a storm shelter.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Because of the size and spread-out nature of the park, getting people to safety in a weather emergency is a challenge. But park officials say people can be moved to safe locations in as little as five minutes. The focus is on getting people to shelter in the park rather than forcing an evacuation.

Park managers are in contact with Scott County officials and a private weather service.  When the National Weather Service issues a warning, audio warning messages are played over the public address system across the park. Rides at the back of the park are closed and patrons moved; rides are closed if lightning is seen in the area.

A "Code Red" warning is called if a tornado hit is imminent. The decision is made by the manager of the day. Staff use 500 phones and 100 two-way radios to get the message out to supervisors to move people into buildings for shelter.

Patrons are moved into "level 1" buildings, the most secure, which are large concrete structures, and then to "level 2" shelters if needed, including the administration building and buildings just outside the park. 

Park officials say that by the time the weather has become that bad, a lot of patrons have already left the park.

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Valleyfair officials did not provide us with a written copy of their emergency preparedness plan.