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Wilma and the World Cup
By Bill Mills – October 20, 2005
The strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded may add excitement to the 2005 PSP Paintball World cup.
Being located in Florida during the Atlantic Hurricane season, the Paintball World Cup has been no stranger to inclement weather. Over the years it has not been uncommon for at least a few games to be delayed due to very heavy rains, and or lightning.
In 1999 Hurricane Irene blew through Florida. It made landfall in South Florida, as only a minimal hurricane with sustained winds of 85 mph. As Irene moved northward over land, it lost strength becoming a tropical storm before passing over Orlando. Despite the decrease in windspeeds, Irene passed through Kissimmee and the 100 acre World Cup site dropping tremendous amounts of rain just two days before the tournament’s first games were scheduled to begin. Between having to wait for the storm to clear before setting up fields, and problems moving vehicles over muddy ground the Paintball World Cup of 1999 saw large delays in its 5-man competition, but did manage to complete on time.
Two thousand and five has unfolded as one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, and it is not yet complete. Major Atlantic storms are given names from a list created by the World Meteorological Organization. Lists are prepared in advance, and already the last planned name for 2005 has been used – Wilma. Future storms this season will be given names based on the Greek Alphabet.
Southwest of Florida, Hurricane Wilma has spun up to category 5, with sustained winds peaking at 175 miles per hour, and a low pressure core (the driving force behind a hurricane) of 882 mb, the lowest ever recorded for an Atlantic Basin hurricane. Since that high point, Wilma has weakened and at the time of this writing is at category 4, with sustained winds of 145 mph – still a major hurricane.
While Wilma’s core is across the Gulf of Mexico, it is so large, that its outermost rain bands dropped rain on Central Florida through Thursday night. While hurricane path prediction is not yet 100 percent reliable, current predictions estimate that Wilma will move to the northeast, passing over Florida as a Category 2 to 3 hurricane (windspeeds between 96 and 130 mph and a storm surge as high as 12 feet.) While the main computer models used to predict hurricane tracks place the center of the storm’s landfall in South Florida near Fort Meyers, a city that was hammered in 2004 by Hurricane Charley, Orlando lies within the area of possibility for the eye. Even if Wilma does stay to the south, it is so large that it will undoubtedly impact the Orlando area – the questions are how hard and when. Current path predictions for Wilma can be found here.
World Cup is slated to begin on Sunday the 23rd with NXL qualifying rounds. Open X-Ball and 5-man competition are scheduled to start Monday the 25th. Hurricane Wilma is presently expected to come through the Orlando Area early in the morning of Monday, the 25th.
So what does this mean for World Cup? There are three major issues with a Hurricane and paintball. Lightning creates an unsafe condition, and both the NXL and PSP will not play when there are lightning strikes in the vicinity of the field. Realtime lightning tracks for Florida can be viewed here.
Rainfall normally does not stop PSP competition, as it is normally not a threat to safety. The NXL on the other hand, traditionally stops for heavy rain, and re-schedules accordingly. A major problem in the aftermath of heavy rain is flooding and mud. In 1999, it was the mud after hurricane Irene that slowed the movement of trucks and setup of the fields. Rainfall tracking is available via radar in Central Florida here.
Wind, when minor is just an obstacle for players who are longballing – when it is strong enough to damage the safety netting surrounding the fields, or the inflatable bunkers on the field, both the PSP and NXL need to stop their games.
According to Robert “Rosie” Rose, PSP’s Ultimate Judge, the PSP crew is working pro-actively to be ready for what Wilma may bring. For the World Cup vendors, Disney is putting building space on standby. If the weather should degrade far enough, the Wide World of Sports complex has facilities large enough to move the trade show indoors temporarily.
For the games, the strategies involve shutting down tournament operation until the severe weather passes, and then resetting fields as fast as possible. For rain and lightning the fields can remain in place. For winds, PSP has lined up a standby crew of over 70 workers to drop and tie nets, deflate and weight bunkers, and reverse the process when the weather clears.
Mud and flooding delays should not be an issue, as the Disney Wide World of Sports complex was built with Florida weather in mind. According to the Disney staff, the facility is capable of draining off five to seven inches of rain per hour – far more than it is ever likely to see.
If the weather does cause a delay of games on the first day or two of the week long event, Rose says plans are also in place to make up the time and complete all of the tournaments competitions. The site plan, which has grown in the last week, includes 7 fields for PSP X-Ball, five fields for 5-man competition and the NXL field.
According to Rose PSP has a number of options prepared to be able to make up for lost time if necessary. Which options get used, and to what degree will depend on what weather comes. These include, converting the 5-man fields to X-ball layout and using them once 5-man is complete, shortening the time of 5-man games if necessary, playing at night with additional lighting that has already been arranged, and even making use of the NXL field at some points in the schedule.
While Hurricane Wilma may pose some surprises for paintballers in Orlando next week, one point Rose was adamant about when discussing the matter with WARPIG.com was that weather was not going to stop the 2005 PSP Paintball World Cup.