Unfortunately at the latest NASCAR event in Pennsylvania there was a weather-related fatality. Someone died after being struck by lightning just outside the track. One person was also critically injured and eight others injured, who have now been released from the hospital. This latest event raises questions whether people are still taking these weather warnings seriously.
First, here's the latest. There were roughly 85,000 people at the NASCAR race. That is a lot of people. At 4:12 p.m. a severe weather warning was issued for the area that the race track was in. The officials didn't call the race until 4:52 p.m. There is an ongoing investigation regarding the timing that everything happened. To me, that's a long time from warning to calling the race temporarily.
According to track officials, they warned the crowd several times. There were Facebook and Twitter updates and weather alerts that were going out too. However there are reports that people in the crowd couldn't hear these warnings because of how loud the race track and grandstands are.
People did end up taking cover, but still ten people were injured in the event. This reminds me of the unfortunate death of a few people at that Sugarland concert last year.
A strong wind gust took down this stage which collapsed on the crowd. I won't start pointing any fingers at who is to blame, nor take the side of forecasters. Bottom line is we need to pay attention to the weather when we're outside. Don't rely solely on weather forecasters, don't rely solely on an announcement from the loud speaker. We should just keep any eye to the sky and watch for bad weather to come in, especially in the summer.
There are some good things coming our way. According to the National Weather Service and phone service carriers, weather alerts for your area will automatically go to your phone for free. This will help so much with how remote we are in this mobile world. I encourage you to put a dollar or two forward for the app that you can get weather alerts in a timely manner and stay on top of the latest.
Again I don't think I can go over the difference between a watch and a warning enough. A severe thunderstorm watch means there's a CHANCE of thunderstorms, while the warning means THERE IS a thunderstorm and it is capable of producing damaging winds and large hail.
Please take the weather seriously. Even if you have to go to work and drive through a flooded roadway, think twice about it. I think work would understand if you're late rather than swept away. Also head indoors once you hear thunder. Lightning is incredibly fast and cloud to ground strikes happen so amazingly fast. I would rather each and every one of you be too careful than not enough. If you side with safety and the storm ends up missing you, please don't curse us forecasters out! We'd rather have you around with us than not. Sacrificing an hour of your time to then have your life, I think, is worth it.
-Meteorologist Steve Glazier