Why wasn't a weather plan enacted before NRG Park was hit with hail during RodeoHouston?

Elyse Smith Image
Monday, March 18, 2024
Hailstorm at Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo took many by surprise
ABC13 looks into why Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo organizers' weather plan was not enacted Friday afternoon despite severe storm warnings across the Houston area.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Monday afternoon, ABC13 Meteorologist Elyse Smith followed up with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and NRG Park in response to what unfolded Friday afternoon when a severe hailstorm rolled through the rodeo. The storm caught many off guard, reporting there was little to no warning or precautions taken to protect those outside on rodeo grounds.

The ABC13 weather team had been tracking the severe storms all afternoon Friday, including the one that would eventually move through NRG Park. The severe-warned storm first included NRG Park in the warning at 4:18 p.m. Friday. Based on conditions from ABC13 reporter Nick Natario, pea-to-quarter-size hail started to fall in droves around 4:38 p.m. So there was about a 20-minute lead time from when the warning was issued to when severe conditions rolled through the rodeo.

SEE MORE: Severe weather at NRG Park sends fans and families dashing for cover at Rodeo Houston

Rodeo Houston fans and families run for cover when severe weather hit NRG Park on the final Friday evening of the 2024 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo sent the following statement to ABC13 when asked about its severe weather plan:

"Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and NRG Park staff use an extensive weather reporting service to ensure we are prepared. Security and emergency personnel constantly monitor weather conditions. In the event of severe weather, Rodeo officials will determine which, if any, safety measures are needed. These measures may include but are not limited to, closing any temporary venues such as tented structures, carnival and/or other outdoor venues, or complete grounds evacuation."

So, it bears the question of why the plan was not enacted Friday afternoon. Or if it was, what needs to be changed to better prepare for next time? ABC13 has received no comment on that or the severe weather plans.

Additionally, the rodeo's website does not have any information on what to do in case of severe weather. The only mention of weather on the website is in the carnival section of the guest services webpage, which is related to what happens if it rains. There is no mention of thunder, lightning, severe storms, etc.

With that in mind, ABC13 reached out to NRG Park, the host site for the rodeo.

NRG sent Eyewitness News the following statement:

"NRG Park leverages a multitude of weather reporting services to ensure comprehensive preparedness for any adverse weather conditions. In the event of severe weather, our dedicated staff collaborates closely with event clients to enact tailored safety protocols, prioritizing the well-being of all guests and personnel. These safety measures are meticulously crafted based on the specific type of severe weather encountered. Through coordination with public safety officials, we maintain preparedness to address any potential weather challenges that may arise."

The two statements from NRG Park and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo read very similarly. To their credit, the rodeo was hosted on NRG park grounds. But again, neither provided ABC13 with those details.

Furthermore, Smith confirmed with the National Weather Service in Houston that NRG Park is not a StormReady facility. If it were, we would know with certainty that the site is fully equipped to handle any weather emergency as deemed by the National Weather Service's StormReady program. Smith had previously reported on the program when the City of Houston was designated as a "StormReady Community" in June 2023. More on the StormReady Program can be found here.

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