How Thompson-Boling Arena avoids weather disasters

WVLT Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy at the communication command center inside Thompson-Boling Arena.
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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – While soaking rains drifted over most of East Tennessee, nearly 20,000 gathered at Thompson-Boling Arena to pray for a spiritual flood.

The event was the 27th Annual Winterfest, a Christian based youth worship celebration.

Even though no actually waters are apart of a spiritual flood, organizers do say they could handle an actual disaster.

One of the participants was Paula Dunford, who was attending her seventh straight Winterfest.

"I love God, and I believe in the event,” she said. “This place has an awesome power and I love to feel that.

Even with such good feelings in the home of the Vols, Dunford said there was a little fear added to the equation Friday night, when a tornado ripped through the fan-filled Georgia Dome.

"At first I was a little bit scared, but I'm safe in Gods hands," she said.

One of the coordinators of the Winterfest was paying close attention to the news reports out of Atlanta.

“The first response is that could happen here,” said David Blair. “It could and it could be a devastating event."

But Blair, fellow organizers, and Thompson-Boling Arena staff were already prepared with an answer to the crowd’s safety prayers, if needed.

"They're just tremendous with their plan of action,” he said. “We meet with the leaders Friday night to go over the whole plan for the schedule, asking each other ‘what happens if…,’ questions"

If devastation did strike, a room in the heart of the large arena would serve as their command center, offering phone lines, Internet connections and walkie talkies what can route information straight to police and emergencies services.

"It's the central disaster area for not only storms and in climate weather, but also nuclear disasters in the area," said Blair.

So while the faithful were raising their hands for a spiritual flood, earthly tools were standing by ready in case of a real flood.

Winterfest’s doors opened for its last day on Sunday at 8:30 AM, and wrapped up before the morning was over.

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