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UPDATE: Storm Hammers Fest; Drenched Fans Stick Around for Headliner Bret Michaels

Royal Oak gets hammered by thunder, lightning, gusting winds and torrential rain Saturday evening, which cleared out much of Arts, Beats & Eats. But a core group returned for the top act of the night, including Brett Michaels.

Arts, Beats & Eats organizers said the festival was scheduled open at 11 a.m. today as planned, and that the storm that swept through Saturday night will not affect today's lineup or featured vendors.

Severe weather swept through southern Oakland County on Saturday evening, clearing out many festivalgoers well before the evening was over and leaving more than 6,300 people without power in Royal Oak and thousands more in surrounding communities.

Tents along Washington were left twisted and many vendors shut down early as rain-soaked streets and wind-swept booths awaited rebuilding for Sunday's Day 3. But a core group of music lovers either stuck around or returned in time for National Stage headliner Bret Michaels, who thanked the crowd and did a shortened set starting just after 10:30 p.m.

The storm rolled through Royal Oak between 8:30 and 9 p.m., after which diehard festivalgoers started returning. By 9:30 p.m., 90 minutes before the official close of fest, beer tents and live music were about all that was left open. That seemed to be enough for those who stuck around.

Meanwhile, Royal Oak and surrounding communities were especially hard hit by the storm; DTE Energy's power outage website indicated at 8:30 a.m. that 6,304 customers were without power in Royal Oak's ZIP code areas of 48067 and 48073. Ferndale had more than 6,000 homes without power, and Pleasant Ridge, Oak Park and Madison Heights had thousands left powerless.

A hot day turned stormy

Earlier Saturday evening, with a severe thunderstorm watch and heat advisory in effect, festivalgoers showed plenty of signs of being aware of the heat, but few seemed to know of impending storms. It wasn't until lightning could be seen in the distance and raindrops started to fall that the crowds cleared out or entered businesses to wait out the storm.
 
Young girls showed entrepreneurial spirit by setting up a lemonade stand on Washington Street, just outside the festival, unaware of severe weather headed their way. Inside the event, the crowds picked up all afternoon; vendors passed out fans to heat-stressed customers. The “Take 5” tents, intended as areas to sit and take a break, were at capacity with plenty of fanners.
 
The only people who seemed to be looking up were a couple of vendors in the art area. Royal Oak resident and clay artist Doug Spalding had a worried look as he observed distant dark clouds approaching from the west.
 
At the National Stage a crowd gathered for Lou Gramm at 7 p.m., when the first drops of rain fell. It was enough to scare off a few concert goers. When heavier rain fell much of the crowd left.

By 9:30 p.m. after the rain had stopped and the storm threat seemingly passed, there was confusion at the entrance on Main Street at Sixth as organizers were unsure of whether more festivalgoers should be let into the event. About 60 people were waiting for answers, many of whom had left during the rain and wanted back in.
 
The official word from Arts, Beats & Eats on Saturday night was the festival was open and that organizers were hoping the bad weather would "blow over."
 
The weather did blow over – several tents on Washington that is. Police shut down the street from Fourth to Fifth streets. It was enough to persuade almost all vendors to pack up shop for the night. Royal Oak resident Kurt Heiman said the only vendors who seemed willing to ride out the storm were “the beer tents.”

“Washington is a mess,” Heiman said. “Several tents are twisted and blown over.”
 
At 10 p.m. Mayor Jim Ellison was assessing Washington. Ellison was concerned about the damage and wanted to be sure no one was hurt. There were no injuries.
 
“The plan is to tear everything down tonight and rebuild it by morning,” the mayor said.
 
Arts, Beats & Eats officials concurred. The official word at the end of the night was everything will be running normally on Sunday.
 
Over on the National Stage, the performance by the band Saving Abel was canceled. The band’s time slot was during in the heaviest rains.
 
At 10:15 p.m. stage managers frantically tried to set the stage for an appearance by the night’s headliner, Bret Michaels. Organizers on stage thanked Michaels for sticking around, saying other acts might have took off; they thanked the capacity crowd for hanging in there, too. Much of the crowd was drenched from the torrential rains that fell on the area.
 
Michaels came on at approximately 10:36 pm. He thanked the crowd for not going home, and played until just after 11 p.m. It was a shortened set, but he delivered the hits the fans waited in the rain to hear.

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