It won’t be long until we are all back outdoors enjoying sporting events, concerts and other outdoor events. Weather can pose major risks, but can also be mitigated. Officials at Notre Dame Stadium demonstrated this when they transformed the magnificent stadium into a concert venue for Garth Brooks in October 2018.
Autumn can bring a host of unpredictable weather conditions to Indiana, especially in October, and the day of the Garth Brooks concert was no exception. A strong low pressure system settled in over the stadium and brought winds gusting from 30-50 mph, strong rains and even small hail. With stage lighting and audio equipment hanging high above the stage, the safety of participants, crews and the 85,000 expected attendees was of great concern.
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Following the collapse of the Sugarland concert stage at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 that led to 7 fatalities and 58 others injured, weather safety has become as important as any other aspect of the event, both leading up to and during the actual event. In fact, that incident inspired the Event Safety Alliance to offer resources to better understand weather impact on events including an annual severe weather conference that is held in late March.
Having access to critical meteorological information is key to keeping people at outdoor events safe. Through various technology platforms and sometimes a meteorologist on-site, weather conditions can be actively monitored to help event managers make the best decisions about safety for all involved. This is especially important when events draw large crowds to areas where evacuation can be tricky or the event includes large structures that are susceptible to weather conditions like stages and tents. By having accurate information at event officials’ finger tips, immediate decisions can be made that help ensure the safety and enjoyment of attendees. While this can be accomplished with remote weather support, many high-profile events now also include on-site meteorologists as part of their overall safety plan.
For example, Notre Dame Stadium utilizes a professional weather solution that includes an on-site meteorologist, real-time lightning detection, mobile accessibility, and customizable weather alerts for all of its major events including sporting events, commencement, and now concerts. For the Garth Brooks concert, Notre Dame had an on-site meteorologist to assist and consult in safety and logistics decision support for all stadium functions related to the concert.
“Having an on-site meteorologist available to stay on top of the ever-changing weather conditions was instrumental to the show’s success,” said Mike Seamon, vice president for campus safety and stadium operations for Notre Dame.
Access to this real-time, localized information allowed stadium officials and stage crews to monitor the changing weather conditions to make critical safety decisions with the most accurate information available. For example, the on-site meteorologist notified concert officials of rain and increasing winds around 2 p.m., so the decision was made to open the tent for Trisha Yearwood’s Tailgate Party a half hour early to get attendees inside for their safety.
With strong winds and heavy rain changing to snow showers also predicted for the 7 p.m. concert start time, officials made the decision to delay the start of the concert until 8 p.m. This decision was a direct result of the collaboration between Notre Dame, event management and stadium management officials in conjunction with the on-site meteorologist. “The meteorologists really work to get to know you and your needs. They truly care about event safety and never shy away from sharing difficult information,” said Seamon. “They always want your event to be successful, and work hard to ensure that you can make the decisions needed to make it a success.”
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With the extra attention paid to the weather and the thoughtful decisions made by officials, attendees were able to enjoy the concert safely – which was the ultimate goal of everyone behind the scenes.
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