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Thousands of ‘soaked, angry’ Governors Ball attendees forced to evacuate New York festival amid severe weather

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
June 03, 2019, 3:26:44 PM EDT


The 2019 Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island, New York, ended on an extremely sour—and soggy—note for thousands of festivalgoers Sunday night as severe weather cut the three-day festival’s final evening short when evacuations were announced.

At 9:35 p.m. EDT, the festival’s official Twitter account posted: “Due to approaching severe weather, an evacuation is in effect. Proceed to the nearest exit.” A statement posted on the Governors Ball website read: “After close consultation with New York City officials and law enforcement, it was deemed necessary to evacuate the site and cancel the Sunday evening of Governors Ball 2019 for the safety of our festivalgoers, artists and crew."

The festival website states that the weekend-long event is typically “rain or shine;” however, showers and thunderstorms on Sunday prompted festival organizers to act within the best interests of attendees, workers and musicians. “The safety of everyone always comes first,” the statement said.

Disappointed fan at Governors Ball - Instagram

A disappointed fan posts an image of a safety message instructing attendees to "move quickly and calmly to the nearest exit." The message was posted above the stage where The Strokes were scheduled to perform at the Governors Ball on the evening of Sunday, June 2, 2019. (Instagram photo/@everyshowadam)


A cold air mass pushed into the Northeast late Sunday afternoon and into the evening hours, resulting in severe weather conditions over the Interstate 95 corridor, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Maura Kelly.

“Ahead of this air mass, a couple showers and thunderstorms developed over the Eastern Seaboard, bringing a brief downpour to New York City and surrounding areas between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. EDT,” Kelly said. “Conditions improved for a short time into the early evening before the main line of showers and thunderstorms moved into the I-95 corridor just after 9 p.m., and continued until about 10:30 p.m.”

Storm reports, most of which occurred within 30 miles of the I-95 corridor, included wind gusts which were strong enough to down trees in Bound Brook and Westfield, New Jersey, and hail was also reported in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, according to Kelly.

Those in attendance posted videos online as the safety announcement blared over the speakers while they stood among scores of other fans awaiting performances that would never come.

“We want Strokes! We want Strokes!”, a crowd at one stage angrily chanted when they learned that the highly anticipated scheduled performance of American indie rock band, The Strokes, became a casualty of the severe weather plaguing the festival area. Evening appearances from artists including SZA were also cut as festival organizers prepared to evacuate attendees.

In other videos online, soaking-wet attendees could be seen caught in drenching downpours as they were herded towards exits and shuttle buses.

Heavy rainfall had impacted the start of Sunday’s lineup, as well, leading to canceled performances from artists including Charli XCX that were slated for earlier in the day. Instead, the last day of the festival began at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

“I just went through the most traumatizing [experience] ever,” one Twitter user Eli Frances Abad posted online following the evacuation. “I’m soaked, stressed, angry and exhausted. The disorganization and complete unpreparedness of @GovBallNYC was atrocious," he said, adding that he had no intention of attending the festival in the future.

"At first we didn't like the fact that they delayed the festival when it had been sunny all afternoon. If they just started earlier or canceled the whole thing hours before they opened the doors, then we would've saved a lot of time, money and effort,” Abad told AccuWeather. “The festival organizers were definitely not prepared, at least for situations like this,” he said in an interview.

Others online expressed similar sentiments, demanding that festival organizers issue refunds for Sunday.

Governors Ball performance - AP Photo

Walshy Fire of the band Major Lazer performs at the 2019 Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall's Island Park on Saturday, June 1, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

Amid the chaos of thousands attempting to escape the severe weather at once, an irreplaceable and sentimental item was lost somewhere on the muddy festival grounds, leaving the owner “heartbroken.”

“My colleague lost her wedding ring during the stampede last night,” Amelia Cooper told AccuWeather. The ring belonged to the late mother of colleague Alicia Lay’s husband, Cooper said. “We were soaked. We started to go down, and I grabbed her to keep from falling.”

Cooper believes that’s when the ring slipped off of Lay’s finger. “Her hands were wet, and I was grabbing at anything. We didn’t realize it until after we got out of the festival,” Cooper said. Lay posted an image on Instagram in hopes that someone would recognize the gold ring, offering a reward for whomever locates it.

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Organizers have announced that refunds will be issued for concertgoers who bought their Sunday tickets directly through the Governors Ball ticketing page.

Sunday’s evacuation was not the first time in the festival’s eight-year history that inclement weather got in the way of the planned musical performances. In 2013, the festival’s opening day on Friday, June 7, was impacted by heavy rainfall, forcing several performers including headlining act, Kings of Leon, to scrap their evening shows when the remainder of the day’s shows were canceled, according to Billboard.com.

In 2016, the festival's final day on June 5 was called off altogether due to "severe weather and a high likelihood of lightning in the area," according to Gothamist.com.

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