Local News

Keeping Golfers, Fans Safe From Lightning at U.S. Open

Posted June 13, 1999

— Rain is in the forecast for theU.S. Open. Thunder and lightning come along with the storms, and the results can be deadly.

North Carolina ranks second in the nation for lightning deaths, and golf courses are virtually magnets for the electrical bolts.

With all the players, spectators and the media at the U.S. Open, the big concern is lightning.

The tall pine trees and expanse of rolling fairways are what make Pinehurst No. 2 so beautiful. But they also add to the danger when lightning is in the air.

That is why the best seats on the course are reserved for a team of meteorologists.

"The good thing about being up here is that we have a 360 degree view of the golf course so we can monitor the sky. Most of the weather that we are expecting should come out of the south-southwest, and we've got a great view there," said U.S. Open Meteorologist Mike McClellam.

McClellam and his staff also have a view of the world. The Internet gives themlive dopplerimages,satellite imageryand thenational radar.

A special antenna that measures the threat of lightning within 15 miles rests on the roof.

"It lets us know the potential for lightning prior to the lightning striking. So, it gives us advance warning, and we can pass that warning along to the spectators, the golfers and the officials," explained McClellam.

Officials make the call when to suspend play and evacuate the course. Weather warnings are broadcast on course scoreboards. A warning means there is imminent danger.

"As soon as a spectator sees a warning on the scoreboard, that's when he needs to seek shelter and get the heck out of here," said McClellam.

The technology will help to make this huge event safer, especially in such a lightning-prone area.


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