ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Central Texas football teams will have more on their radar this weekend than the scoreboard, with thunderstorms in the forecast.
Districts are working on contingency plans if games are ultimately cancelled, and they also have systems in place to let them know if the field is unsafe to play on.
“Back when I first started coaching 30 years ago, it was more of a common sense, looking for lightning, listening for thunder,” said Lee Penland, Assistant Athletic Director for Round Rock ISD.
But technology has taken the guessing out of the game.
“One of our instruments is called Sky Scan, and it detects how far out the lightning is,” said Penland. They also rely on the app Weather Bug to detect nearby lighting.
Austin ISD also uses a phone app to detect lightning. Both Eanes and Leander ISDs have equipped their stadiums with this technology, called the Thor Guard Lightning Detection system.
According to Leander ISD spokesperson Veronica, Sopher, the system continuously monitors the atmosphere’s electrostatic energy as far away as 15 miles and evaluates the potential for lightning within an area approximately two miles in radius. When the system determines a hazardous condition, the air-horns and strobe light provide necessary alerts.
The districts abide by UIL recommendations for lightning safety. UIL guidelines say when thunder is heard within 30 seconds of a visible lightning strike, or a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. They say teams should suspend play for 30 minutes and take shelter immediately.
Once the game has been suspended, teams are advised to wait at least 30 minutes following the last sound of thunder or lightning flash prior to resuming an activity or returning outdoors.
While all the teams hope to end the night with a W, keeping everyone safe will be the real victory.