Another Lucky Non-disaster at a Large Venue

Now here’s a meteorologically related hazard to a large-event venue that’s almost entirely related to the design of the particular facility.

OK, folks…what’s wrong with this picture?

It’s Minnesota! They get snow often, sometimes very heavily. The official snow depth was around 17 inches; and snows of a foot or more there are precedented. And they built a fabric roof?

This has happened before too, though not as severely.

Imagine also if that occurred during a game, and the players and refs happened to be on that part of the field. The leading edge of the downburst of snow took only about a second to get from the spot of impact to the sidelines, which gives some indication of the tremendous momentum it had when it hit. A football field is 160 feet across from sideline to sideline; and the locus of the impact was centered almost perfectly. A back-of-envelope calculation shows the gust front of the snowburst reached horizontal speeds of around 55 mph on the field.

We would need to know the mass of the snow and its fall speed to make a good guess about the force of its impact; but it’s safe to say that serious injury or death was possible for anyone directly beneath. That’s aside from the risk to fans from any stampede in the stands that could occur upon witnessing the roof descending so ominously.

At least the high-res video of that might make a very useful downburst-conceptualization model! Notice also, when they zoom in to one of the newly opened holes, how warm air rushes upward through it and blows a small snow plume back out.

Fortunately, it happened with an empty facility, and just makes for a source of inconvenience, expense and amusement instead of a tragedy. This also sealed the deal on the Vikings’ future in that stadium. Count on it. Indeed, you can bet any sum you wish that Zigy Wilf is going to get either a new stadium or new city for his team. If somebody’s foolish enough to take the wager, it’s a good one.

The Giants-Vikings game itself has been shifted to Detroit, which is about to see some real football played in its stadium for once. It will be the first Monday night game at Detroit in a decade! At least the Detroit sportswriters themselves are having fun with that. If you’re in the area, go see a free NFL game, courtesy of the Metrodome architects and engineers.


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