How do you know to cancel an event if the rain hasn't started yet?
July 15, 2012 6:55 AM   Subscribe

When should you cancel an outdoor event because of rain? When the chance of rain is 50%? 75%? When there is a little lightning bolt in the picture?

I'm responsible for an outdoor event today that involves 10 participants, five of whom are children without their guardians. It's a walking tour and there's not really an option for staying under cover. The participants are all traveling a bit to get to this event, from up to an hour away. The weather forecast for my area isn't looking that great, but I don't know if it's so not-great that I should cancel the event.

So, I guess this question is a two-parter. The first part is specific: should I cancel the event today? For the hours of the event, the forecasts I've checked out all say "scattered T-storms." The chance of rain is listed as either 40%, 50% or 60%, depending on where I'm looking. It's not raining now, but it's looking slightly grumpy out there.

The second part is more specific: How do you know whether you should cancel an event for rain? Is there any sort of rule of thumb?

This is a work event and I'm hoping not to make the wrong call so your help is much appreciated. Please let me know if you need any additional info. Thanks for your help!
posted by smirkyfodder to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oops, meant to say "more general" in that second part.
posted by smirkyfodder at 6:57 AM on July 15, 2012

Your organization might (should!) have an official policy on this. For insurance and other CYA purposes, I'd be asking higher ups. In the unlikely event that a member of the tour group gets struck by lightning, I can envision the insurance company pointing to a negligence clause and saying that taking the group out was inviting trouble. (I'm a broken record in telling people that insurance companies do not make money by paying claims.)

If I were a member of the group, I'd show up on a rainy day, hoping for the tour and probably happy with another engaging talk / discussion led by the guide indoors. A slide show of pictures featuring areas covered by the tour? A totally different topic and an invitation to come back on _date_ when better weather is expected.

This is an instance where asking for specifics at your particular workplace is going to be vital, as you will frame it as you wanting to protect the organization, while balancing commitments to service and customer satisfaction.
posted by bilabial at 7:14 AM on July 15, 2012

Best answer: Lighting is the big issue - at school, we check the board's website about whether or not the students can have outdoor recess. If it's drizzling, they still go out.

For my daughter's camp this week, which was an outdoor adventure camp, we were told to send them with rain gear, as they'd continue their activities in the rain, so we were forewarned.

I'd say check with your higher ups, and stop by a dollar store and pick up ponchos and maybe a few bath towels if you're planning to go on with it.
posted by peagood at 7:20 AM on July 15, 2012

With kids' baseball one visible crack of lightning and the game is cancelled. Same with outdoor swimming pools, and no one goes into the water for 30 minutes after the last lightning. Just rain though? Carry on, but with peagood's dollar store ponchos. And make lots of notes on all this for your next event. Nothing like learning from experience!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:39 AM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

How long is the event? If the rain storms are expected to be scattered, can it be delayed or interrupted and then restarted after the rain ends?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:43 AM on July 15, 2012

Grab a bunch of big garbage bags to use as improvised ponchos for kids without rain gear.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:24 AM on July 15, 2012

Is this a walking tour in a city or, like, on a battlefield or something? I wouldn't cancel a city walking tour because of predicted scattered t-storms - you can always duck in a building if the storm turns out to be worse than expected (even if it's a convenience store or something). Also, in some places, scattered thunderstorms are almost the norm on summer afternoons. But people still get outside and do stuff!

If you're going to be out in the middle of a field or something and it would take more than a couple of minutes to get back to shelter then you need to be more careful.

Basically there are two reasons you would cancel the tour: comfort and safety. Comfort is really subjective and depends on the people who are coming, how interested they are in the tour, and what kinds of clothes they will have on hand. Safety is mostly about lightning (and wind, and maybe hypothermia from getting your clothes all wet). The "everyone under cover as soon as there's visible lightning" rule is pretty standard, I think.
posted by mskyle at 10:12 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "everyone under cover as soon as there's visible lightning" rule is pretty standard, I think.

This does NOT mean under a tree! Under a tree kills people. This means into or under a structure, even if it's a covered entryway of a building.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:35 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We didn't cancel and the thunderstorm hit about a couple hours after we were finished, so everything worked out! I probably would've canceled if not for your answers. Now I can either return peagood's ponchos to the dollar store or think of something else to do with them. Thanks again!
posted by smirkyfodder at 7:55 PM on July 15, 2012

Yay! I thought of you today when the skies opened up here in Toronto. Keep peagood's ponchos for a future event and talk to your superiors and your peers about what the policies and protocols are around this kind of thing for future reference.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:30 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I believe scattered or isolated storms means geographically scattered or isolated. So there's a 50% chance it is raining or will rain somewhere in the region. it's very likely that it will not rain on you. Look at the animated radar maps on line for the best idea of what will happen where you are.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:20 PM on July 15, 2012

Response by poster: It's funny, I would have thought they'd have an official policy on weather cancelations, but apparently the only policy is "go with your gut" and that doesn't seem very official at all!
posted by smirkyfodder at 5:41 AM on July 16, 2012

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