Weather too bad to play? It's a judgment call

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

Just after the Tishomingo County baseball team departed on a bus Saturday afternoon for its playoff game in Amory, reports indicated that there was a tornado traveling towards Iuka, where the school is located.
Fortunately, the Braves arrived safely for Game 3 of its MHSAA Class 4A first-round playoff series. Unfortunately for the Braves, they lost 7-4 and were eliminated from the playoffs.
It was the only high school game played on Saturday, as much of Northeast Mississippi grappled with severe weather.
“We didn’t know how bad the weather was,” Tishomingo County coach Jerry Long said on Monday. “We were already gone by the time that (the tornado watch) happened.”
And the weather was better in Amory than in Iuka prior to the Braves’ departure.
“I called them at 1:45 and they told me they are leaving at 2,” said Amory coach Chad Williams. “I told them I was mowing the field now and it was just spitting rain.”
Said Long: “When we drove out of Tishomingo County and we got south of Belmont, it stopped raining. If there would have been danger, we wouldn’t have played, I’ll tell you that.
“There was no danger, I thought, down in that area.”
Williams wasn’t immediately aware that Tishomingo County was under a tornado warning. He found out through a reporter who called him around 3 p.m. Saturday to see if the game was still on.
Williams said he then called the Tishomingo County coaches to tell them that the weather wasn’t dangerous in Amory.
“I definitely wouldn’t want to put anyone in harm’s way over a ball game,” he said on Monday.
In administrators we trust
The Mississippi High School Activities Association leaves it up to the high school’s administration – coaches, athletic directors, principals and superintendents – to decide if it is safe to play a game.
“It’s gotta be up to the game administrator, high school principal or coach,” MHSAA Executive Director Dr. Ennis Proctor said on Monday. “We’re certainly not going to endanger lives, of course. …
“Under a tornado watch, we suggest they do not play. A lot of times it’s still gotta be an administrative decision.”
The MHSAA doesn’t require teams to postpone its game to the next possible date whenever there is a tornado watch or warning; Proctor said it may not be necessary to postpone a game when there is a tornado watch but the sun is shining and there’s a good chance the storms will not arrive until well after the game or, for that matter, avoid the entire area.
“I’m sure administrations shut them (games) down the best they can,” Proctor said of whenever there is dangerous weather.
The MHSAA does require schools, though, to have lightning detectors on hand for sporting events.
“Whenever there is lighting detected within a 10-mile radius,” Proctor said, “they are supposed to shut them down.”
Amory High School followed that protocol on Saturday evening. Amory’s lightning detector went off during the game and play was then halted for the next hour and a half.
“You think about it,” Long said about dangerous weather during sporting events. “You don’t want to put the kids in danger.”
Despite losing to Amory on Saturday, Long said he “was well-pleased with” how Saturday’s game in Amory was handled by the players, coaches, school administrators and game officials.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com