A satellite image of Tropical Storm Fay approaching Florida at about 2 pm, Tuesday, August 18, 2008. It was working on strengthening into a hurricane which fortunately did not come about. You can see the cyclonic counter clockwise cloud rotation and feeder bands extending to the south over Cuba. The feeder bands or zones of convection are frequently associated with violent cumulonimbus clouds, supercells, bursts and other forms of severe weather. The fragmentary "eye or center of rotation appears to the southwest. "X" marks the approximate location of the events to follow.
Tropical Storm Fay was well publicized to strike South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, August 18 and 19, 2008. High winds were widely forecast with gusts on the order of 40 to 60 kts. in abundant squalls lines in feeder bands that were obvious on radar, satellite images and to the naked eye (see radar images). Weather hazard alerts were being broadcast through all media on a regular basis and were more than obvious to experienced watermen. Many kiteboarders looked at forecasts and conditions and said no way they were going out in these hazardous conditions. High winds, erratic wind changes, lightning, lulls are commonly known to pose serious hazards to kiteboarders in such squalls. Most kiters in the area hadn't been kiting in about a month and half due to seasonal light winds. Unfortunately, not all kiteboarders came to this same sensible conclusion that Monday.
A radar image of South Florida and Tropical Storm Fay at 5 pm showing the counter clockwise rotation of feeder bands.
At about 5 pm, Monday a dark squall was moving in from the southeast into Ft. Lauderdale Beach, FL, USA. Visibility was about 2 to 3 miles with frequent rain showers and passing clouds. This particularly squall was lead by a zone of white water or intense rain showers. Squall lines had been clocked at traveling 60 mph or a mile a minute that day related to Fay. So, by the time the squall was seen, it might arrive in less than 3 minutes with powerful winds from the gust front perhaps arriving even before that. In effect faster than anyone might be able to come in and secure in some cases, you have no time.
Radar images from: http://www.rap.ucar.edu/weather/
An intense squall denoted in red is firing axially into the beach at Ft. Lauderdale beside the "X" Such squall lines are frequently associated with very high wind gusts, microbursts, tornados, hail and lightning. Not sure but those curved red archs may be "bow echos" indicative of microbursts. Microburst can generate wind up to 170 mph over a 2 mile radius.
A satellite oblique image looking eastward over the area. The two kiteboarders were in the vicinity of the "X" while the news cameraman was near the "P"
Two kiteboarders had just landed on the beach and had their kites low waiting for guys to grab and secure their kites. The winds had been around 16 kts. with one of the two kiters underpowered on his 9 m kite. They had come in to avoid the squall but arrived too late to escape its impact. While they were standing there squall winds hit with wind speeds approximated at 40 to 50 kts. Torrential rain also started.
The wind plot is truncated at 5 pm. Winds were estimated to gust to 40 to 50 kts.. This is a common occurrence in sudden gusts with the actually velocity being substantially higher. At around 5 pm, the wind lulled to less than 10 kts. and explosively gusted to perhaps 50 kts.. Such wind patterns are common in tropical system and cold front squalls in this area.
Four guys were running to secure the two kites. One of the kiters sat down extended his legs against the pull and forced his kite into the ground. He was flying a 2009 9 m C kite and was dragged about 30 ft. through the sand. At one point the kite was folded in half by the combined wind force and pressure applied by the kiter to hold the kite in place. Hobie Cat sailboats were immediately downwind of his kite and likely to catch the kite if the dragging continued to that point. His kite was grabbed and secured. You can see this kite behind or to the south in the news video.
** Several video clips of the accident appear HERE
The other kiter was standing about 20 ft. further north and southeast of the SE corner of the wooden deck where the news cameraman was located. The kiter to the north kept yelling to the kiteboarder "keep your kite down" over and over again. The southern kiter ran forward or west about 15 ft. perhaps when dragging started, in the process he was observed to suddenly bring his kite up from the horizontal to a point well off the ground, initiating a lofting* in the strong winds. His option for Emergency Depowering may have largely ended after then given the speed and violence at which things progressed from that point onward. Guys were likely seconds from grabbing his kite but it flew up and away from them. He was lofted a distance of about 100 ft. north in the gust. He must have applied pressure to the right side of his control bar causing what appeared to be a kiteloop as he was flown downwind to the northwest. He struck and was dragged through the sand and then lofted again as shown in the video. One observer said the speed of flight exceeded that which he has seen in high wind kiteloops. The kiterboarder flew roughly 275 ft. horizontally and about 20 to 25 ft. high over parked cars falling into A1A. This intermediate landing did not show up in the news video clip. He was moved a third time about 40 ft. into an alley, possibly by dragging, between a restaurant and mid rise condominium building. He was seen to hold on to his bar throughout the accident with both hands and made no attempt to Emergency Depower the kite. It is not known if he struck either the pavement or building wall in the alley.
Another kiter saw what happened and sprinted across the street in driving rain, poor visibility indicated in the video to aid the kiteboarder. The lofted kiter was lost to view so the responding man ran through the restaurant and around the building furiously trying to locate the lofted kiter. He found the man lying in the alley in seconds. The responding kiter immediately disconnected the man's quick release disconnecting his kite. The man was flying a 9 m flat kite. There was a tremendous quantity of blood around the man. He was unconscious but quivering. The man had two ragged holes in his knees, a bad laceration to his forehead, broken ribs and perhaps other undesignated injuries. He started to moan and come around but was delusional and started to say over and over again, "Let me go home, I don't want to kite anymore." He tried to get up with substantial strength while several first responders held him motionless in place. Emergency services were on the scene in force in an amazingly short period of time. The man is in his mid 20's, about 160 lbs. and has about 4 to 5 years kiteboarding experience. He is currently in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital and from what information is available is predicted to recover.
* lofting - involuntarily being lifted by the kite in a gust and being blown downwind
Text Copyright 2008 FKA, Inc.