Now that spring is finally here and temperatures are starting to warm, we all want to be outside, and I can think of nothing better than buying my ticket and heading out to a Twins game. But since it’s outdoors, we have to contend with the weather. So if severe weather approaches what do you do and where do you go?
For most situations, the simple use of the stadiums concourses and overhangs will do just fine protecting fans from rain, lightning, and hail. In extreme cases though with strong winds or potential tornadoes, there are locations inside that fans will be directed to…
Kevin Smith, The Senior Director of Communications for the Twins says, “Signage in a situation when you are moving 35 or 40 thousand people isn’t very helpful, you need human beings to tell people where to go, where not to go. And that’s where these hundreds of ushers come in to play. They will actually be at their posts, at their sections and advise people where to go where not to go when they come up on the seating sections and we’ll put those people in the safest spot we can knowing this is an outdoor ballpark and we can’t cover up everybody all the time, but we can do what we can to get them to the safest spots possible should they want to remain in the building.”
These safe spots include the typical areas like the bathrooms, but also the dozen or so staircases that encompass the structure on every floor that are almost entirely windowless. But the not so widely known underground service level is the crown jewel of safe areas. This wide hallway goes around the entire stadium and can house thousands of fans if necessary. But that’s for the worst case scenario, and thankfully something the ballpark hasn’t had to implement… yet. More than 2 million people walk through these gates every summer, but it isn’t the only spot you can get stuck outdoors in severe weather.
Outdoor football is now common place for Minnesota sports teams with the Vikings and Gophers playing right in this stadium, so if you’re attending one of these games with 50 thousand of your closest fans and inclement weather approaches, what do you do?
Every situation will be different depending on the size of the crowd and the specific weather situation. Plain old, everyday thunderstorms are of little concern because the concourses, ramps, and bathrooms are designed to hold every fan in the stands to provide them shelter. But if severe thunderstorms are rolling through the area, if a smaller crowd was in the stadium
Scott Ellison, Associate Athletics Director for the Gophers says, “Shelter in the bathrooms and the building, depending on the weather situation as well. If it’s a 50 thousand seat Viking game or Gopher game, we’d evacuate to the buildings around the stadium.”
This evacuation plan involves moving fans from the stadium to indoor arenas nearby like McNamara, Williams, and Mariucci all right next door. Now this plan can only be found on a small map in the bathrooms of TCF… but like Target Field, all employees are aware of procedures and would direct attendees where to go. Both of these stadiums have on site meteorologist that is constantly monitoring the weather AND it’s not just one man making the decision to evacuate the stadium, it’s a TEAM.
Scott says, “The one key that is very important to us here is the unified command structure at the command booth that we are all part of the team, we are all talking, and we are all making the decision together.”
Attending a game at Target Field or TCF is one thing, but I’d say a lot of us are far more likely to be caught outdoors in a park or by a lake when severe weather strikes.
If the skies are getting dark, or you see lightning, the first thing you want to do is get out and away from water… we all know it is a good conductor of electricity. Try to stay away from tall objects like trees, because those are more likely to be struck. If YOU are the tallest object, get low to the ground and head indoors as quickly as you can. Covered picnic areas are not good shelters because there are no walls, so it’s better to wait out a storm in your car if you have no other option. To put this simply, if thunder roars, go indoors. It’s a good rule of thumb no matter how corny it sounds because if you can hear thunder, then you are very close to a thunderstorm and all of its glory like the lightning, strong winds, hail, and potential tornadoes.
The best way to keep yourself safe is by staying informed, we all have one of these… the smart phone, download your favorite weather app like the fox 9 weather app and you can get the very latest. But ultimately, you are responsible for you so use common sense. If you are uncomfortable and see the skies getting darker, take action right then because those extra minutes might just help keep you out of harm’s way.
At Lake Harriet, I’m meteorologist Cody Matz Fox 9.