JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Did you know that golf used to be the number activity for lightning related fatalities in Florida, but thanks to education and leadership from groups like the PGA that is no longer the case. At the forefront of keeping people safe and weather aware during golf tournaments including the players are meteorologist that travel with the tour.
Wade Stettner is one of those meteorologists. “As a meteorologist, I am here to support the tournament, that could be the referees the agronomy staff, the tournament organizers, really anything that mother nature is going throw at the tournament I am helping them navigate it through the week.”
It’s not only lightning that the players are worried about, “Players are concerned about wind, both direction and speed, that effects every shot that they hit , the club selection they use, so of course the players are concerned about that and of course the rainfall as well.” He also went on to note that the meteorologist will also give them an idea on where and if water may pool on the courses. This way the game can flow as smoothly as possible.
Wade noted, “Lightning safety is number one, we want to make sure the message goes out to all the spectators and organizers so if we do suspend play it’s an orderly process.” As meteorologists, they have slew of tools at there disposal, this includes models, radars and reports as storms approach. But they also have a tool that can help detect lightning before it even occurs as a storm may be developing overhead. “We have an electric field meter out there that we have, it’s taking every second the electric field, so if we have an approaching storm we can see that value change and that can help gauge how imminent that threat for lightning would be.”
Wade and the other meteorologists onsite provide short and long range forecast for the tournament, but they also make sure that when a lightning warning is needed that the message gets put out to keep people safe. “We will start putting weather messages on the score boards throughout the golf course leading up to that, so if you are a spectator and you start seeing those messages on the golf course that might be a good indicator to start moving towards a more central area.”
The important thing is to stay weather aware. “If you start to see the weather messages appear on the scoreboards, check your weather app and radar so you can start making the decisions for yourself.”