Weather Threats at Sporting Events

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Today there is a greater awareness surrounding the importance of predicting weather conditions and keeping athletes and spectators safe with game delays and evacuations. Sports officials must have a clear view of current conditions and an accurate understanding of how forecasted weather will impact their events.

Sporting events are an exciting, shared experience. Thousands of fans and spectators are energized by the drama of the game and the promise of a thrilling win. However, if you are in charge of ensuring the safety of those fans and players, you may have to make some hard decisions about delaying the game when dark or stormy clouds start rolling in. Safety must always come first when lightning, rain, high winds, or other conditions threaten play.

And if it seems like this scenario has been happening more often in recent years, you’re right.

Weather delays are becoming more and more common for two major reasons:
1. There is an increase in extreme weather events
2. There is greater awareness of weather dangers, thus events are being suspended or canceled more often

The impact on sporting events

Severe weather — including lightning, high winds, heavy rain, or extreme heat — threatens the safety of those at the event, costs time and money for game operations, and negatively impacts the fan experience. In particular, lightning often puts players and the public at the biggest risk in outdoor venues. It can be difficult to predict without advanced equipment, often appearing to come “out of the blue” if officials aren’t familiar with warning signs — and the affects can be deadly.

Advanced weather technology for safe decisions

Ultimately, deciding whether to delay or cancel an event must be made with the best information available at the time. By equipping yourself with advanced forecasting technologies and access to an expert meteorologist, you will be better able to protect players and fans.

Real-time information and advanced forecasting

Current technologies combine real-time data with accurate forecasting to give you a more powerful tool for storm preparedness and highly specialized predictions. Detailed, location-specific forecast services offer real-time weather conditions and storm attributes that show you exactly what is headed your way.

In addition, access to real-time lightning information is critical. Internet websites often don’t update frequently enough — sometimes only every 10 or 15 minutes — which provides you with a dangerous false sense of security. And using the “flash-to-bang” method is both unscientific and unreliable; lightning can strike farther than 10 miles away from the parent storm. With advanced lightning tracking technology, you can monitor lightning heading toward your event in real time. Alerts are automatically provided via email or text message as lightning strikes are detected in a pre-determined area. This is vital for early decisions that protect spectators and players.

Access to an experienced meteorologist

When making your decision whether to delay a game, you should ideally have access to an experienced meteorologist, who tells you his or her overall level of confidence in the forecast. This is extremely valuable to understanding and reducing risk, especially when making difficult decisions regarding game delays and public safety. Through online consulting or phone calls, a meteorologist will answer your in-depth questions and discuss the backstory on the forecasts you see.

Climate Change

The climate is changing, and with it the frequency and volatility of extreme weather events. The good news is that in recent years there is greater awareness about the importance of understanding weather conditions and the caution needed when delaying games or evacuating people.

With extreme weather events occurring more frequently — a trend that is expected to continue — the responsibility of ensuring player and public safety at outdoor games will become even more challenging. Although delaying or canceling a sporting event is never a popular or happy decision, with the right tools and support, you can be confident that your decision was the right one.

Learn more about how the Red Sox use this type of premium weather intel for their gameday operations.

LSR & early hail (03.18.13)

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