Nancy's Almanac, June 22-24, 2013: When storms strike big public events, you're in charge of yourself -
Published Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:10 am
Nancy's Almanac, June 22-24, 2013: When storms strike big public events, you're in charge of yourself

The storm that accompanied this year's College World Series opening ceremony was another reminder that when it comes to big-crowd events, people are responsible for their own well-being.

As the series' opening festivities were hitting full stride June 14, and thousands of people were milling about downtown, a potent storm developed in nearby Saunders County.

Emergency officials had already been preparing.

Earlier in the evening, the threat of severe weather had been serious enough that the Douglas County Emergency Management Agency had activated its spotter network, said Paul Johnson, the director.

And because people and traffic would be crowding into downtown for CWS festivities, emergency officials and the National Weather Service went a step further, he said.

The weather service sent meteorologist Barbara Mayes downtown, to the county's emergency operation center, so that emergency officials could speak directly with her during what was likely to be a chaotic evening.

Her expertise would be needed.

According to Mayes, the storm was traveling toward downtown Omaha at about 45 mph and capable of delivering winds of 70 mph or greater.

“It looked pretty nasty,” she said.

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At 8:05 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Omaha and advised people to seek shelter.

By then, the CWS and NCAA were scrambling to cancel most of the ceremonial events — scheduled to run from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. — but still hold the Olympic-style parade of athletes.

J.D. Hamilton, spokesman for the College World Series, said the parade was held because the NCAA's on-site meteorologist said there should be enough time to get it done before the storm hit.

“We thought it was very important for the student-athletes to be introduced,” Hamilton said. “Once it was completed, we asked fans to seek shelter.”

Those who stayed caught a lucky break.

The storm had slowed as it moved into the Omaha area and arrived with less intensity, Mayes said.

This gave people more time to get to shelter. As it was, they only had about 15 minutes.

One thing that probably persuaded some people to leave: The NCAA and CWS displayed weather radar on the scoreboard at the completion of the parade of athletes.

Undoubtedly, a number of people also monitored the weather on their smartphones and used that to gauge when they should leave.

In terms of emergency shelter:

The baseball teams and their entourages were sheltered below ground in the stadium's service areas.

The crowd was offered shelter in the concourse and at the nearby Century Link Center.

This World-Herald article recaps that evening's abbreviated ceremony.

Current conditions and forecast

Contact the writer: Nancy Gaarder    |   402-444-1102    |  

Nancy writes about weather, including a blog, Nancy's Almanac. She enjoys explaining the science behind weather and making weather stories relevant in daily life.

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