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Storm cancellation ‘right call’ for eclipse festival, local officials say

Ivan Zhurbin and Anastasia Itreda

Texas Eclipse Festival attendees Ivan Zhurbin and Anastasia Itreda made their way to the courthouse square in Burnet after leaving Reveille Peak Ranch before the eclipse on April 8. The Los Angeles couple watched the celestial show from the courthouse lawn. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

Ending the Texas Eclipse Festival a day early was the correct move, according to Burnet County officials. Severe weather warnings turned into the real thing on Tuesday, April 9, when rain, hail, and lightning struck the area. 

Festival organizers made the call to cancel on Monday morning, before the eclipse that afternoon, due to severe weather forecasts from the National Weather Service. Heavy rains fell on Tuesday morning and evening, when tens of thousands of festival-goers would have been vacating Reveille Peak Ranch in western Burnet County.

“(Not canceling the festival early) would have been disastrous,” Burnet County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Mike Sorenson told DailyTrib.com. “The right call was made.”

The massive festival was originally scheduled for April 5-9.

According to Sorenson, at least 33,000 people were in attendance at the Texas Eclipse Festival and it took over 13 hours to get everyone out on Monday. If the evacuation had taken place on schedule, thousands would have been caught in the storms.

Burnet County received over 2 inches of rain in some locations on Tuesday, according to Lower Colorado River Authority rain gauges. Pea-size hail fell in the morning across the county and baseball-size hail pummeled the Marble Falls area that evening. The entire county was under an NWS tornado watch from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and a flood advisory from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Some festival-goers were confused by the early cancellation because the weather was mild on Monday.

“We heard about this festival about the art, the music, the events and decided to come,” Los Angeles resident Ivan Zhurbin, originally of Russia, told DailyTrib.com just after the eclipse. “A lot of our friends came as well. A lot of people were complaining, leaving because they shut down the festival. We checked Google weather, didn’t say anything about the storm.”

Zhurbin and friend Anastasia Itreda, also from L.A. and Russia, watched the eclipse from the courthouse square in Burnet before driving to San Antonio for a flight back to California. 

While Burnet County officials and NWS representatives collaborated with festival organizers on whether to end the event early, the decision ultimately came down to the organizers.

This announcement was made by organizers on Monday morning:

“We regret to inform you of the severe weather forecast, including risks of high winds, tornadic activity, large hail, and thunderstorms for later today, including during the eclipse, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

“Your safety is our top priority. With the support and coordination of Burnet County officials, local safety agencies, and The National Weather Service, we’ve agreed to end the festival today in a calm orderly manner.”

Burnet County Emergency Management Coordinator Derek Marchio believes they made the right call.

“(The decision to end the festival early) was definitely validated by yesterday’s weather,” he said.

dakota@thepicayune.com