I was watching the Masters golf tournament like many people on Sunday. It was compelling, and Tiger Woods came away with his fifth green jacket. In the days leading up to the iconic golf tournament, it was apparent to us within the meteorological community that weather could be an issue for the Masters. In fact, I wrote in Forbes:
as a meteorologist, I am particularly concerned about Sunday. Sunday is typically the final round and brings high drama at the Masters. The official NWS forecast for Sunday calls for an 80% chance of precipitation (showers and thunderstorms) mainly after 3 pm. Some of these storms could be severe
As I reflect on the weather messaging associated with the Masters, there was good, bad, and ugly.
The “good” is actually better described as excellent. On Saturday, the Masters announced some changes to the Sunday schedule because of the weather forecast. PGATour.com reported the following adjustments on its website:
The field of 65 players who made the cut will play in threesomes off two tees (Nos. 1 and 10) starting at 7:30 a.m. ET. The final threesome of 54-hole leader Francesco Molinari, Tiger Woods and Tony Finau will tee off at 9:20 a.m. Final-round coverage on CBS will be live beginning at 9 a.m. ET.
The image above shows the radar image at 3:22 pm near Augusta, Georgia. Storms were approaching as scheduled and the entire area was under a tornado watch until 7pm (graphic below). The decisions made by the Masters and its on-site meteorologists are perfect examples of what the American Meteorological Society (AMS) had in mind when it issued guidance on outdoor venues, sporting events, and weather. The AMS statement said:
A common theme in the after-action reports and service assessments for these disasters is that the weather plan was inadequate to deal with a comprehensive portfolio of weather risk, or a weather plan didn’t exist. In many instances, organizers simply “hoped that we wouldn’t get hit.” Reducing the weather risk to life and property at venues and public gatherings is a priority for the weather enterprise and the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Knowledge of, and investment in, pre-event planning and mitigation serves the nation economically as well as socially.
The Masters used a proactive approach rather than a “hope” plan.
The “bad” is actually not related to the Masters tournament but something that happened during the television broadcast. For days, it was clear that the Atlanta area and parts of north Georgia would be dealing with severe weather. At several times during the broadcast, CBS 46 in Atlanta cut in to the Masters coverage to alert viewers of tornado warnings in the area. These are life-saving actions and consistent with what the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) expects stations to do. The usual complaints started sprouting on social media. CBS46 actually used a split-screen approach rather than completely removing the Masters coverage, and I thought that it worked well. Yet, many golf fans complained. Two of the most consistent complains that I saw included:
- This type of coverage isn’t needed anymore because we have weather Apps.
- Why do they keep repeating the same information?
On the first complaint, there are still a significant number of people (elderly, vulnerable, and marginalized populations) that may not have other resources to receive a warning. Many people are not very smartphone savvy so rely on their local TV meteorologists. I have written in the past about how a good number of people still rely on a comforting voice over Apps in times of stressful weather. I also kept wondering why the folks complaining about alerts couldn’t watch the Masters on an App. As for the second complaint, many people drop in and out of a broadcast. Repetition is often required to ensure that the message is received by whoever is watching at the time.
The “ugly” is that some Atlanta area TV meteorologists actually received death threats because they interrupted the Masters. Yes, you read that correctly. Ella Dorsey is a meteorologist at CBS 46-Atlanta and happens to be one of my former students at the University of Georgia. She tweeted:
To everyone sending me death threats right now: you wouldn’t be saying a damn thing if a tornado was ravaging your home this afternoon. Lives are more important than 5 minutes of golf. I will continue to repeat that if and when we cut into programming to keep people safe.
That’s ugly folks.