Through five weeks of the area high school football season, Mother Nature had behaved.

Friday night, she decided to make her presence felt.

A number of area games were delayed or postponed due to lightning—public enemy No. 1 when it comes to outdoor sporting events.

I sat through more than an hour long delay at Monterey Stadium in a game that finally ended at about 11 p.m.

Safety is paramount in situations such as Friday, and the WIAA has strict guidelines to follow in case of inclement weather.

When thunder is heard or a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt is seen, that means the leading edge of the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. Play is immediately suspended, and players and fans are required to take shelter immediately. Host schools must provide a safe zone or shelter for all those in attendance. At Friday night’s game at Monterey, the safe zone during the delay was Wilson Elementary School—which sits adjacent to the stadium.

“You have to have an emergency plan in place,” Janesville Parker athletic director Clayton Kreger said. “And you’ve got to be able to react quickly when weather becomes a factor.

“At that point, playing the game is secondary.”

Once play has been suspended, the game cannot resume for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard or flash of lightning is witnessed. Any subsequent thunder or lightning after the beginning of the 30-minute count will reset the clock and another 30-minute count begins.

Beloit Turner hosted Edgerton in a Rock Valley Conference game Friday, and with the forecast calling for thunderstorms, the teams moved the starting time up from 7 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. It was Turner’s Homecoming game, so postponing until Saturday was the last option.

Edgerton raced out to a 33-0 halftime lead, and with a thunderstorm in the area and a possible long delay in order, the game was called.

Edgerton coach Mike Gregory said it was the right decision.

“We talked about it,” Gregory said. “We’re going to sit here for two and a half or three hours, and so we just decided by mutual agreement that it was in the best interest of both programs to end it.

“Why risk getting someone injured? We might not play until 10 or 10:30 in a game that is pretty much settled already, so let’s be smart here. I applaud him (Derek Diehl—Turner head coach) for agreeing to that.”

Rules are also in place for games that are in a delay or will be coming out of one.

Quarters may be shortened in any emergency by agreement of the opposing coaches and the referee.

By mutual agreement of the opposing coaches and the referee, any remaining quarter may be shortened at any time or the game terminated.

Games interrupted because of events beyond the control of the responsible administrative authority shall be continued from the point of interruption, unless the teams agree to terminate the game with the existing score, or as otherwise provided for by state association adoption.

And when weather conditions are construed to be hazardous to life or limb of the participants, the crew of game officials is authorized to delay or suspend the game.

Hopefully, Mother Nature goes back into hibernation as we wind down the regular season. But, don’t bet on it.

John Barry is a sports writer for The Gazette. Email him at jbarry@gazettextra.com

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