National Rainout: ‘Safety is the main concern’ as storm cuts annual event short

GroupSpc. Miles Eichhorn, of the 241st Military Police Detachment guides Ysabella Corralejo, 6, of Fort Meade through the pedestrian safety driving course at National Night Out on Tuesday. The annual event was cancelled after heavy rain rolled into the area shortly after it began. (Photo by Nate Pesce)

Torrential rain forced the cancellation of Fort Meade’s National Night Out on Tuesday evening — a first for the annual celebration.

“Unfortunately, this was the first time in our history that weather didn’t cooperate and we had to cancel the event,” Fort Meade Police Capt. Brian Kunkel, an organizer of the event, wrote in a post on the Fort Meade Facebook page.

“But heavy rains, lightning and increased winds forced us to make the call for safety purposes.”

Leaders of a local Boy Scout troop try to hold up their tent as heavy rain and winds blow through the parade field. (Photo by Bryan Spann)

Lorrie Short, a member of the Officers’ Spouses’ Club, which participates in the event, posted her thoughts on Facebook:

“First time … it had to be cancelled, but safety is the main concern.”

The call to cancel the event came around 6 p.m., almost an hour after the event kicked off with a convoy of first-responder vehicles through Fort Meade neighborhoods.

At 5 p.m., the sky was overcast. About 30 minutes later, sprinkles quickly turned into heavy rain after the convoy made its way to McGlachlin Parade Field.

Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard, Command Sgt. Maj. Brian S. Cullen, Deputy Commander Andy Albright, Corvias Business Director J.C. Calder and their families, along with McGruff the Crime Dog, descended from Fire Engine No. 45 onto the wet field.

(From left:) Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard, Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Brian S. Cullen and Deputy Commander Andy Albright, along with family members and McGruff the Crime Dog, ride atop a Fort Meade fire truck as they arrive at McGlachlin Parade Field for National Night Out on Tuesday. (Photo by Nate Pesce)

Rickard, Calder and Lt. Col. Jeffrey Knudson, director of the Directorate of Emergency Services, attempted to formally sign the “Community Night Out” proclamation, but the downpour made it difficult for the ink from their markers to dry.

Rickard praised Fort Meade’s law enforcement and fire departments for their efforts to keep the community safe.

“This is a great opportunity for us to proclaim National Night Out at Fort George G. Meade,” Rickard said. “We have great security provided by our DES.”

At the start of the event, families armed with umbrellas walked onto the parade field. But many people decided to stand under the canopies of the law enforcement, fire and Fort Meade agencies that participated in National Night Out, waiting for the rain to cease.

However, flashes of lightning and periodic thunder, combined with the downpour, led DES to formally cancel the popular event that typically draws thousands of people.

Members of a taekwondo company perform in the rain shortly before National Night Out is cancelled. (Photo by Bryan Spann)

“Sad the weather didn’t cooperate tonight,” Deanna Stadtmueller wrote in a Facebook post. “Our little guy was so excited to see the fire trucks. But we were sitting in the parking lot for about 25 minutes waiting for it to let up before it was canceled. And I think they made the right call.”

One planned highlight of the evening was the Fort Meade App Challenge.

Mary Doyle, Fort Meade’s media relations manager, said the challenge may be rescheduled.

“We might do it later without a big public event,” she said. “We really do want people to download the app.”

Doyle said one bright spot was that people who did have the Fort Meade App were immediately notified that the event was cancelled.

Kunkel posted on Facebook that plans for next year’s National Night Out will begin soon.

“We are determined to make 2018 NNO a blowout event,” Kunkel wrote. “Thank you again for your support, and we will see you next year.”


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