Are our stadiums prepared for severe weather? Are you?

It’s a beautiful summer evening and you’re filing into Target Field to watch the Twins. Or, you’re rocking to Bono and U2…and dancing in the rain as lightning flashes all around you on a summer night at TCF Bank Stadium.

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Thousands of fans await U2 as the storm approaches TCF Bank Stadium last July.

Photo Credit: Paul Huttner-MPR News

Maybe you’re in the seats watching the St. Paul Saints at Midway Stadium. Or perhaps you’re tailgating before a Vikings game on a humid early September Sunday, or taking in the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on a warm September Saturday.

What do you do if a tornado approaches? Where do you go as a damaging line of thunderstorms with an 80 mph gust front is racing toward you? How close does the lightning have to get before you react? When does the stadium “sound the alarm?”

Your advance planning and actions in the minutes and seconds before the storm hits may determine if your survive, are seriously injured, or safe.

The answers to the best plan are complicated, and may change depending on exactly where you are, and what stadium personnel do in the minutes and seconds before life threatening severe weather strikes.

There may be no “one size fits all” answer.

The best thing you can do? Hopefully you know severe weather or tornadoes are a possibility before you head outdoors into a public arena.

As you enter the stadium, park, baseball field etc, think about where you would go if a tornado hit. Where is the closest safe shelter? Are there any obstacles in the way? Does it make sense to react early, and get to a relatively safe place and wait to see if the storms actually hits?

Ideally, severe weather preparedness is in the hands of the individual. Your own “situational awareness” can save your life and the lives of those around you.

My biggest fear? An EF3 tornado bearing down on Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium packed with 40,000 fans, and nobody sounds the alarm to get to safe shelter until it’s too late because “the game must go on.”

Hopefully, the stadium or location has an effective plan for getting you and other fans to safe shelter. But as you’ll see in the piece from the Des Moines Register below, complications can arise in any severe weather situation.

Here’s an excerpt:

Weather reports showed strong storms and the possibility of tornadoes headed toward Des Moines last Saturday night, and Bob Swanson, head of security at the Iowa Events Center, wanted his staff prepared.

The Iowa Barnstormers arena football team was playing that night. He called a morning meeting to make sure everyone was up to speed on evacuation procedures, nearby tornado shelters and crowd management if things got rough.

That night, though, as with many emergencies, circumstances threw a curveball: The fire alarm went off, and an automated public address message told fans to head for the exits — just as the teeth of a thunderstorm and damaging high winds bore down on the capital city.

Next time you head out to an outdoor event of any kind, please have an idea if severe weather is a threat before you go. Then take a minute to think about where you will go if the worst happens. Anything else is gravy.

PH