Question: Why are games delayed by lightning?
Late summer thunderstorms are often a blessing and can reduce the blistering heat of an August day to 90 degrees. But, for those responsible for the players and fans attending games at the start of the high school fall season, it can also mean danger and potential trouble.
There is a story CHSAAAnow.com about last week’s Zero Week game between Prairie View and Grand Junction played at Henderson. The attached photos show one of a thunderstorm swirling over the stadium. This storm produced lightning close enough to the venue to postpone warm-ups and prevent fans from entering the stadium. Although the game is a week old, it serves as an example of how schools deal with threatening weather conditions.
There is a national protocol that schools follow when the threat of lightning is present.
If this threat is near before the teams have warmed up, the decision to allow fans into the stadium and teams into the pitch for warm-ups is the responsibility of the match management staff of the host team. Back to PVHS. Sports coach Michelle Taylor is responsible for ensuring it is safe for players and fans to enter the stadium.
Using a lightning detector that helps identify approximate distances, she and other game maintainers are able to track storms and provide more accurate information about the storm’s path. As last week’s storm rolled through the foothills, Taylor was able to help game management track the storm and more accurately predict a suitable game start time.
But unstable weather can also upset plans. After two delays the teams entered the pitches, an official saw lightning close enough to call for a third delay until another cell passed. The match started at 8:45 p.m. and was no longer delayed.
The nationally recommended protocol was developed by the National Federation of State High School Associations and was adopted in 2010. Here is the suggested protocol:
NFHS GUIDELINES ON MANAGING CONTEST DURING LIGHTNING DISTURBANCES
National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) / Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC)
The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a default policy for those responsible for making decisions regarding the suspension and resumption of contests based on the presence of lightning. Preferred sources from which to request such a policy for your facility would include your state high school association and the nearest National Weather Service office.
1. Assign staff to monitor local weather conditions before and during events.
2. Develop an evacuation plan, including identifying suitable nearby shelters.
3. Develop criteria for suspending and resuming play:
- When thunder is heard or cloud-to-ground lightning is seen, the storm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. Suspend play and take cover immediately.
- Thirty minute rule. Once play is suspended, wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder or lightning before resuming play.
- Any subsequent thunder or lightning after the 30 minute countdown begins, reset the clock and another 30 minute countdown should begin.
4. Hold periodic reviews for appropriate personnel.
For more detailed information, refer to the “Guidelines for Lightning Safety” section in the NFHS Sports Medicine Handbook.