Spring time in Charlottesville means it's time for Fridays After Five, concerts, and lots of dancing at the Charlottesville Pavilion. Spring also brings with it the risk for severe thunderstorms. What happens when events at the Pavilion and severe weather collide?
"There is a severe weather section in our security plan that we worked up with the Charlottesville Police, the fire marshals, and other city officials," said Kirby Hutto, general manager of the Charlottesville Pavilion. "So when we have really severe weather, whether it's a tornado watch, hurricane warning, or severe thunderstorm warning, we have a plan in place."
The Pavilion has a very distinct large arch that serves a very special purpose, all in the name of safety.
"The arch itself, although it carries the roof, also serves as a lightning rod. Both sides of the arch are buried about thirty feet into the ground,” said Hutto.
The arch helps to keep people safe from lightning associated with non-severe thunderstorms. Is this enough to protect against more violent weather, like tornadoes?
"If a decision is made that we need to get people out, we'll stop the show and make an announcement. Police have made arrangements for us to open up City Hall for folks to go there for shelter,” said Hutto.
At the Newsplex, we always have an eye on Real Time Triple Doppler Radar when thunderstorms start to fire up. Managers at the Pavilion are also keeping a close eye on things, when the weather begins to turn sour.
"Anytime we've got weather that may be affecting the event, we're going to have someone backstage who's got radar up on the laptop. They keep the rest of the staff up to date with what's going on,” said Hutto.
The Pavilion can withstand winds of up to 115 miles per hour, but ironically there is something with a much softer side, that could bring it to its knees.
"Snow is the biggest risk that we face here because originally the plan was for the roof to come down every winter,” said Hutto. “Now that it's up, we have to make plans anytime more than two or three inches of snow is in the forecast. We have a crew of riggers that get up on the roof and push the snow off to keep that weight from accumulating."
Hoping for the best, but always preparing for the worst, the Pavilion keeps cranking out the tunes, while keeping a close eye on Mother Nature.