This past weekend (October 6th – 10th, 2016) Hurricane Matthew rampaged much of the southeast. At one point Matthew was a category 5 hurricane, the strongest on the Saffir Simpson scale. Matthew was forecasted to affect all of the Southeast coastline. As the storm developed and the models begin to close in on an idea of what Matthew was going to do, people began to prepare from Florida to Virginia.
The University of Florida and Louisiana State University, a heated rivalry in college football, decided to postpone the much anticipated game scheduled for Thursday, October 6th, one day before Matthew was to affect central and northern Florida. The University of Florida had more than 50 players whose family was in the direct path of Matthew. Gainesville, FL escaped fairly well with the passage of the storm. Winds sustained at 33 mph with a gust of 48 mph was measured at Gainesville Regional Airport. Up to 3,500 customers lost power during the height of the storm. "I wouldn’t say we dodged it, but it dodged us,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said in the report. "We’re really thankful for that.” (The Advocate)
The University of Florida wasn’t the only one to cancel their football game. The University of South Carolina in Columbia cancelled their home game with The University of Georgia. That game was played on Sunday October 9th, 2016.
I commend both universities on their proactive approach to dealing with Matthew. Numerous residents in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia have all felt effects from Matthew. From flooding, to wind damage, to no power. Even though Gainesville and Columbia weren’t the epicenter of Matthew, the universities erred on the side of safety.
The University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Duke University all decided to play their games. Saturday was a very stormy day across central and eastern North Carolina. If you saw any of the games you saw a mud bowl instead of a football game. Heavy, flooding rains and Tropical Storm force winds made it difficult. What else was difficult? Getting the people there. Attendance was down across the college landscape in North Carolina. People were dealing with flooding issues, power outages, and property damage. Emergency crews, as well as local, county, and state police were helping storm weary folks, but also helping game day activities, stretching already thin resources even thinner.
For me, personally, I experienced both on that rainy Saturday. I am one of the track meteorologists for Charlotte Motor Speedway. On Saturday morning around 8 am, myself along with others including panelist Ricky Matthews, assembled and provided a forecast for Speedway officials and NASCAR. Rain and gusty winds were in the forecast for most of the day, but watching the weather models we were convinced that Matthew would pull out and the rain would begin to clear the area around 4-6 pm. Charlotte Motor Speedway takes about 90 -120 minutes to dry, giving us a dry track slightly after start time. We were set and ready to wait out the rainy day. About 60 minutes later we had learned that the Bank of America 500 was postponed until Sunday. Not because of the forecast we had given them, but because of the activities that were happening throughout the state. NASCAR, along with Charlotte Motor Speedway staff didn’t want to pull much needed rescue officials away from Eastern North Carolina. Also we didn’t want to expose the fans to the devastating conditions that were taking place in North and South Carolina.
I, along with Panelist Ricky Matthews, drove to both Lumberton, NC and Fayetteville, NC. What we witnessed was horrifying. We saw numerous swift water rescues, folks being evacuated from hotels and homes, businesses that had lost everything. Power was out for miles upon miles. Emergency crews not only from Eastern North Carolina, but emergency crews from Western North Carolina, and the Upstate of South Carolina were on hand to assist. It was a team effort. The folks of Cumberland and Robeson County needed to be helped! It was at that time Ricky and I knew it was the right call to cancel the activities at Charlotte Motor Speedway even though the weather would have been okay to hold the event.
A total of 39 deaths (time of this story) have been contributed to Hurricane Matthew. Twenty of those were reported in North Carolina and three in South Carolina.
Hopefully, when the next storm affects our area, all event organizers, sporting teams, and
the like will take the initiative to cancel all events, so everyone can truly focus on those who need our help
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