MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On September 4th, 2011 – lightning and severe weather delayed the “Friends of Coal” Bowl football game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Marshall Thundering Herd not once, but twice, before the game was called during the fourth quarter.
Evacuating a stadium full of 60,000 people was challenging but April Messerly, the Associate Athletics Director for Facilities and Operations at West Virginia University, says that though it took some time to get people out of harm’s way – everyone was able to stay safe.
“It was a unique situation because there was lightning in the area but there was not any rain yet, and so until the skies essentially opened and that downpour came, people were really slow moving right. But we were able to get everyone safely evacuated. I remember there were reports that lightning had hit the stadium which were completely false,” said Messerly.
Thankfully since that game almost ten years ago, large athletic events at West Virginia University have not been impacted to the degree that university officials faced that day.
Several lessons, large and small, were learned by the university, including fixing a concourse Public Address system issue.
“While everyone had evacuated to the concourse, they were listening to our radio broadcast and they couldn’t hear the announcements that we were making in the stadium. ‘Okay folks we still have 20 minutes in the delay, etc.’ It was really hard for them to hear that. So one thing is literally a switch of a button and us being able to switch over and put that PA on the concourse so people could hear it.”April Messerly, Associate Athletics Director for Facilities and Operations at West Virginia University
When preparing for football gameday, West Virginia University administrators are in contact with the National Weather Service office in Pittsburgh, beginning in the morning two days before the event.
The university actually holds a certification as a “StormReady” campus which ensures that the institution is prepared to deal with extreme weather events.
Messerly’s message to fans traveling to not only WVU football games, but any university athletic event is that the safety of fans and athletics is their number one priority.
“We always want people to feel safe and want to come to our venues and do that in the safest way possible. We want to put on a great experience for our student athletes as well but they have to be safe too,” said Messerly.
To ensure that you are safe when attending WVU athletic events – be sure to be alert for any warning messages being relayed to you, whether it is on the Jumbotron, through the Public Address system, or even on your phone or the StormTracker 12 weather app.
To view the 2021 StormTracker 12 Severe Weather Special in its entirety, please click here.