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Stormy Weather: Sports Events Cope with 2015 Hurricane Season

4 Nov, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Hurricanes Joaquin and Patricia were perhaps the worst party crashers any sports event planner has had to deal with this fall. They showed up without an invitation, they made a huge mess and they left town without cleaning up after themselves.

Patricia, who took Mexico by storm the weekend prior to Halloween, formed in the warm waters over the Pacific, building in intensity so quickly that many were caught off guard. As it approached the coast, it packed winds in excess of 200 mph. Mexico’s government declared a state of emergency in dozens of municipalities in the states of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco, and thousands of people took refuge in shelters across the region. Officials called Patricia the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.

Some of those who had journeyed to Mexico included those taking part in the 2015 Archery World Cup Final, being held over the weekend in Mexico City.

Fortuitously, Patricia weakened considerably after making landfall, with only a very small section of the storm (about 15 miles wide) sustaining its original Category 5 strength. And while much property damage was recorded in areas where the winds were the worst, and where storm surges caused flooding, there were no reported deaths.Travel Weekly noted that by Saturday, many resorts and travel destinations were going about their business as usual.

Successful Meetings noted Puerta Vallarta's convention center, and all facilities, were also fully operational.

And in the archery world, events were able to go on as planned, according to Sarah Bernstein, communications officer for USA Archery, who added, "The hurricane did not hit anywhere near the event. I don't even think they had any rain."

Another event that could have been a wipeout was the Ironman Los Cabos, to be held on Mexico’s Baja California. This event, which was scheduled for Sunday, October 25, missed the brunt of the storm as well.

Talk about dodging some bullets. After all, fall is hurricane season and those storms are, at best, unpredictable. Less than a month ago, Hurricane Joaquin blew into town, wreaking havoc on sports events in the Mid-Atlantic. Compounding the problem was the fact that up until the last minute, meteorologists were unsure which track the hurricane would actually take, so sports event organizers were scrambling to decide whether to cancel events or reschedule them.

The Jersey Shore Half-Marathon and its accompanying Lighthouse 5K, scheduled for the first weekend in October, had to be cancelled. In Maryland, two major events, the Seagull Century bicycle ride and the Maryland Ironman, were cancelled. The Ironman was tentatively rescheduled for October 17 (unfortunately, that was the same date the Baltimore Running Festival, which included a marathon and half marathon, was held.) The Seagull’s organizers elected not to reschedule and mailed the official event T-shirt to all 6,000-plus registered riders.

In summer of 2015, Sports Destination Management featured a poll on its website, noting that Atlantic hurricane season ran from June to November. Planners were asked if the possibility of bad weather affected their site selection process.  A total of 31.58 percent of respondents said it did affect their decision-making. Another 21.05 percent said it wasn’t a factor. One segment (36.84 percent) did consider it but said it was not a deciding factor, and 10.53 percent said it did not apply to them.

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