Did Daytona wait too long to alert fans of storm?

What happened in the lines of communication last weekend when weather took over the Daytona 500?

Weather.com is criticizing NASCAR and the Daytona International Speedway for neglecting to inform fans of the true potential of storms approaching the speedway.

The article, written by Eric Zerkel reminds readers of the death of a man at the Pocono Raceway two years ago from a lightning strike.

As the race was first underway this past Sunday in Daytona Beach, there were already lightning advisories in the area. According to the report, officials waited a full hour before alerting fans of the potential risks of sitting in conductive stands in a thunderstorm. 150,000 fans.

Andrew Booth, a spokesperson with the Speedway says that it is the track's decision to clear the stands, not NASCAR. He added that they closely monitor the National Weather Service out of Melbourne, as the track does not employ a meteorologist.

"The safety of our fans is our number one priority here at the speedway," said Booth.

Track drying
Track drying

Photo by: Covy Moore

"We have a plan in place to monitor the weather, and if necessary, take the proper steps to communicate to the fans in the event of a severe weather system in the area. We use a lot of different methods to do that, from social media, our text messaging system, PA announcements, our video screens on property; all of those methods can provide that information quickly. So once we have an alert for severe weather, we'll provide our race fans every 30 minutes a weather update until the system dissipates."

The first updates the fans were given from the track was issued at 2:50 p.m., 37 minutes after the race was stopped and rain began to fall.

Additionally, the report says the first lightning advisory was issued at 1:50, 23 minutes before the red flag, and a full hour before the track told fans of the risk. During that hour, there were tornado warning and extreme thunderstorm warning issued, without being passed on to fans.

Lastly, the track does not offer any sort of refuge for extreme weather conditions. Aside from the turn one tunnel, much of the track is open and tall.

The communication lines at the track were open, between the weather service and the track, but fans were left in the dark during the most dangerous time of Feb. 23rd's storm. What went wrong?

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Article type Commentary
Tags daytona 500 storm, daytona international speedway, death, lightning, tornado warnings