A look at how dangerous weather is handled in various sports:
INCIDENTS: A 41-year-old NASCAR fan was struck by lightning and killed Sunday as he stood near his car in the parking lot of Pocono Raceway in northeastern Pennsylvania. Nine others were injured during Sunday’s violent storm.
POLICY: NASCAR stays in contact with track officials when weather may affect a race, but track officials are responsible for communicating to fans about approaching severe storms. Some fans posted on Pocono Raceway’s Facebook page that they never heard Sunday’s weather-related announcements. Decisions whether to proceed are typically made minute-by-minute, although there have been instances the last several years when NASCAR worked with track officials in advance of incoming weather. This season, the Daytona 500 was postponed for the first time in its 54-year history because steady rain made a Monday evening start the safest solution.
INCIDENTS: In 1991, two spectators were killed just months apart in two of golf’s major championships. A 27-year-old man was killed during the first round of the U.S. Open at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., in June that year. William Fadell was struck by lightning while standing beneath a willow tree to the left of the 11th tee. Five others were injured. In August 1991, lightning killed a spectator at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., at the PGA Championship. Thomas Weaver, a business executive and father of two young girls, was struck and killed as he headed for his car alongside the grounds of Crooked Stick. Tourney winner John Daly donated $30,000 to set up a trust fund for Weaver’s daughters, both of whom went on to graduate college.
POLICY: The PGA Tour’s website advises fans that golf can be played in the rain. But it says if potentially dangerous weather is detected, warnings will be broadcast on all electronic leaderboards and video boards located on and off the course. These warnings notify spectators before play is suspended and are intended to provide enough time for them to find a sheltered area. Suspension of play occurs with a prolonged blast of an air horn, repeated once.
INCIDENTS: Because of severe storms in the Midwest on Saturday, races at Arlington Park near Chicago were delayed while jockeys, horses and spectators waited out the storm. Everyone was brought into the building when the storm hit. The eighth race of the day, which was to start at 4:30 p.m., was delayed but back on track at 5:04 p.m. At Saratoga Race Course in New York, forecast storms led officials to move up races by nearly an hour on Thursday.
POLICY: The New York Racing Association says it has plenty of covered areas at Saratoga where fans can take shelter until storms pass. If an electrical storm pops up suddenly, the track announcer will broadcast an advisory across the track telling patrons to take cover. If bad weather is expected later in the day, race officials will sometimes speed up post times to complete a card before the storm arrives.
INCIDENTS: A 1996 preseason game in Chicago between Kansas City and the Bears was called late in the third quarter because of lightning. More recently, the 2010 season opener between Denver and Jacksonville was suspended 33 minutes because of lightning. Officials sent players, coaches and staff members off the field at the start of the fourth quarter, and public address announcers asked fans to seek shelter during the delay. The Jaguars and other teams also have had lightning delays in preseason games.
POLICY: The commissioner or his representative has authority to suspend, postpone and cancel games if the safety of participants or spectators is at risk. Referees can temporarily suspend games. League policy says the commissioner’s representative should be mindful of the safety of spectators, players, game officials, photographers and cheerleaders. Decisions to cancel, postpone or terminate a game are to be announced over the public address system, the referee’s wireless microphone or through radio, TV and other news media.
INCIDENTS: Tulsa’s home-opening loss to No. 7 Oklahoma State last year was delayed more than three hours by weather and didn’t end until 3:35 a.m. local time on Sunday. A year earlier, the Arkansas-Mississippi game was delayed twice in the second half by 89 minutes combined because of lightning, causing most of the 73,619 in attendance to leave before it ended.
POLICY: Schools are required to have an inclement weather policy that includes where fans should go and how that is communicated. Basic guidelines from lightning safety experts strongly recommend that by the time a monitor observes 30 seconds between a lightning flash and its associated thunder, all individuals should have left the athletics site and reached a safer structure or location. University of Utah officials say almost every college has a system, such as the SkyScan Lightning/Storm Detector, in place to assist game managers in decisions when it’s safe to resume play.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL:
INCIDENTS: A bolt of lightning close to Rangers Ballpark followed by an immediate loud clap of thunder led to a 46-minute delay in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game between Texas and the Minnesota Twins. No rain was falling when a sudden jarring bolt of lightning struck north of the stadium. Catcher Mike Napoli took off running toward the dugout, as did Twins batter Ryan Doumit. Josh Willingham, the runner at first, dropped to the ground and umpire crew chief Jeff Kellogg immediately stopped the game.
POLICY: The umpire has power to stop any game because of dangerous or inclement weather. League officials say they rely on teams to have policies in place to communicate best with their fans depending on particular weather danger.
More Safety Info:
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