In the event of inclement weather for the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Churchill Downs personnel, as well as safety officials from the Louisville, Ky., area, are prepared to take precautions in warning and protecting patrons.
Although the weather forecast has improved from the severe storms that were previously predicted, there is still a chance of heavy rainfall, as well as winds of up to 20 miles per hour during the afternoon.
Here’s a full up-to-date report as of the afternoon of April 30 from Joel Ammerman of the National Weather Service:
“What we’re expecting for tomorrow is a period of showers and thunderstorms to develop in Louisville around 10 a.m. That could last up to three or four hours. We could get an inch of rain from that, and a few locations could get heavy rain.
“From that time frame until after the end of the Derby, we’re looking at either scattered showers or light rain in that there could be the potential for an isolated thunderstorm as well," he said. "As far as severe weather, we’re not looking at any potential tomorrow, but there could be winds at 15-20 miles per hour during the afternoon. We are still looking at potential for very heavy rainfall after midnight. After the heavier thunderstorms are over, I would say the rain would be a quarter of an inch or less unless we should get another thunderstorm.”
Doug Hamilton, director of Louisville/Jefferson County Kentucky Emergency Medical Services, said in the case of severe weather, the infield would be the most at-risk area.
“Since the infield is so open, and with the potential for an extreme amount of rain in a short amount of time, we’re concerned about the tunnels and access to the tunnels,” he said. “But we have enough security personnel between those at Churchill and regular police, sheriffs, and National Guard to be able to control those tunnels and access to those tunnels. We also have the means, should access be blocked, to find alternative means to move people out of the infield.”
Hamilton said he and other officials have discussed various scenarios that would require moving a considerable number of people in the case of a tornado warning.
“We’ve discussed what those steps and levels would be…and where we would take them in the event it was necessary," Hamilton said. "With the advanced technology of the weather system…there may be (a tornado warning) one for Jefferson county, but the neighborhood of Churchill may not be at risk. We have the technology to tell us when it’s coming.”
Darren Rogers, senior director of communications at Churchill Downs, said the Kentucky Derby would be postponed in the event of lightening or a washout. The call to delay any race would come from steward John Veitch of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, not Churchill Downs officials. In the event of a delay, the race could be raced under Churchill’s lights.