Officials defend response to storm scare
OMAHA, Neb. -- NCAA and stadium officials defended their response to a fast-moving storm that passed over the new TD Ameritrade Park on Monday night and put a brief scare into College World Series fans.
No tornado warning was issued for the Omaha area, but sirens sounded about 8 p.m. CDT because of the high winds that knocked over vendor tents near the stadium. No injuries were reported.
Many fans at the Florida-Vanderbilt game moved from their exposed seats into the concourse area, with some taking shelter in stairwells and some walking across the street to a convention center. No one was asked to move out of the stadium.
Some fans whose seats were covered by the second-deck overhang stayed put and watched the pitch-black clouds pass over.
"I will tell you we were as surprised to hear that siren as the rest of the crowd," NCAA Division I baseball committee chairman Tim Weiser said Tuesday.
Dennis Poppe, NCAA vice president of football and baseball, said the National Weather Service had assured officials that there was no tornado activity in the area and that high winds would be the major concern.
Play was halted at 8:02 p.m., shortly after sirens sounded, and the game was suspended 2½ hours later because of continuing rain. The game resumed Tuesday morning, with Florida winning 3-1.
Though officials knew stormy weather had developed in the area, there was no thought to postponing the game before it started. Poppe said in his experience at the CWS, storms that appear imminent sometimes don't materialize.
"I've been there before when the forecast never came through, and then you're sitting there in perfect weather conditions and you didn't play the game," Poppe said.
Fans were not told to evacuate the stadium, but stadium personnel announced the location of places where they could take shelter.
Roger Dixon, who heads the agency that operates the stadium, said gates are opened during bad weather so fans can move freely in and out of the stadium.
"We do not say you have to stay here or there," said Dixon, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority. "If they choose to stay here, that's good. If they choose to leave and realize they made a mistake, we would welcome them back or have them go to the Qwest Center."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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