CHICAGO (Reuters) - Notre Dame’s football stadium was cleared in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday at halftime of the season opening game against South Florida after several lightning strikes in the area, a university spokesman said.
“Right now we are in an indefinite weather delay,” Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said. “We evacuated the stadium at about 5:12 p.m., right at halftime.”
Brown said there were a number of lightning strikes in the area and the “vast majority of the stadium was evacuated” though there were a few people remaining in the stands.
The university also was expecting high winds as a storm front passes through the area, Brown said.
“It has been cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within a 10-mile radius which is the radius the NCAA uses,” Brown said. “We actually started our announcements even before then to err on the side of caution.”
South Bend Police Captain Phil Trent, who was working traffic at the game, said a “pretty significant” number of people were leaving the stadium, but he suspected some would stick around until the bitter end.
“It’s still looking bad out here, so we’ll see what happens,” Trent said. “Not northern Indiana football weather at all.”
South Florida was leading Notre Dame 16-0 at halftime and no decision had been made about when the game would resume. The stadium has a capacity of nearly 81,000.
Brown said it was to the best of their recollection the first time Notre Dame Stadium had been evacuated in at least 60 years.
Most of the students initially stayed put in the stands despite the evacuation order, getting up only when ushers kicked them out. Fans waited out the storm in the stadium concourse and several other nearby university buildings.
With his team losing, 19-year-old Notre Dame sophomore Joey Labetti looked for the silver lining in the delay.
“I honestly hope that this is divine intervention,” Labetti said.
Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Jerry Norton