Heavy rains and strong winds cancelled opening festivities for the College World Series Thursday, and with more storms possible, officials will be watching the weather closely.
The storms also caused problems across the region, pelting commuters between Lincoln and Omaha with hail and blinding rains and leaving many Midlanders, at least briefly, without power.
As long as the weather cooperates -- and it just might -- everything's back on track today for the CWS, Papillion Days and other outdoor activities.
Weather conditions have changed enough this morning that the National Weather Service is lowering its estimate for the likelihood of afternoon and evening storms, said Becky Kern, meteorologist.
"If nothing redevelops, it should be mostly cloudy and spitting here and there,” she said.
Kern said the weather in the area continues to evolve, so people should monitor forecasts. However, if storms develop, they shouldn't be severe, she said.
The chances for showers and thunderstorms continue into the weekend, but they're unlikely to bring widespread severe weather, she said.
Sunday appears to have less of a chance for storms than Saturday.
Based on current forecasts, midweek is the next best chance for stormy weather, she said.
The TD Ameritrade Park grounds crew got the baseball field covered with tarp before the rain arrived Thursday, said J.D. Hamilton, spokesman for the NCAA's Division I Championship Series.
"The grounds crew will do everything they can to make sure that at 4:10 (today), the first pitch will take place," Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the NCAA has a meteorologist on site and relies on the expertise of AirDat, a company that provides forecasting information, to gauge the likelihood of bad weather.
To avoid giving teams a competitive advantage, the NCAA tries not to start games that can't be completed, he said. Decisions on what to do are made by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee.
One weather event leaves no wiggle room: lightning. Games must be delayed 30 minutes if lightning strikes within six miles. The clock resets with each strike, he said.
When it comes to rescheduling rainouts at the College World Series, the NCAA consults with ESPN on available time slots so that the games can be broadcast.
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Fire and water:
The fans had gone home, but the show went on without them.
The fireworks for the opening ceremony of the College World Series were set off as scheduled Thursday because there wasn't a safe way to move them, said Dan Morrissey, vice-president of marketing for CWS of Omaha Inc.
"Once they've been set up, it's too dangerous to move them," he said. The stadium was evacuated early in the evening as a severe thunderstorm approached. Fans weren't advised that the fireworks would be shot off because the CWS didn't want to risk putting people in harm's way, Morrissey said.
"We didn't want to encourage people to stay and watch because we weren't sure what the weather would be like," he said. "We worried about somebody getting hurt."
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Papio Days scare:
The storm descended so quickly on the Papillion Days festival that vendors barely had time to secure their tents before rushing for shelter.
“One minute it was calm with a little bit of rain, and next minute it was blowing and gushing and cracking,” said Vanessa Foster, who shares a jewelry and hair care booth with her sister, Niove Nekel.
Foster said a tree fell on one tent, and she estimated a third of the booths sustained damage to awnings, including hers. No injuries were reported.
Foster's booth and nearly all of the 80 vendors at the festival are ready to reopen, she and a festival organizer said.
Ann Ames, director of the Papillion Community Foundation, said the group is working with the half-dozen vendors whose booths were destroyed by the storm.
“We will do what can to help those vendors get up and going again,” she said.
The annual festival is held in Papillion City Park, across from Papillion Junior High School. The school was open Thursday evening and will be available this weekend for use as a shelter, if needed.
“The park has been cleaned up, and we'll assess the weather as the day goes on to determine what events will be held,” Ames said. None of the rides at the carnival were damaged, she said, and it is ready to reopen.
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Fire investigators said lightning sparked a house fire in the Shadow Ridge Country Club area just after 9 p.m. Thursday.
Smoke alarms alerted the residents and enabled them to escape their enflamed home near 184th Circle and Pacific Street, said Capt. Tim McCaw, a spokesman for the Omaha Fire Department.
It took nearly an hour to get the fire under control as the flames spread from the roof to the attic. The second story, main level and basement sustained significant smoke and water damage.
Fire officials estimated more than 50 percent of the house and its contents was damaged in the fire.
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The Omaha Public Power District has whittled to 291 the number of customers without power after storms knocked off line as many as 10,000.
Mike Jones, spokesman for OPPD, said storms caused problems from Thursday night into Friday morning. High winds and lightning caused many of the outages, especially in Sarpy County and southward.
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La Vista cleanup: Thursday evening's storm downed large trees and many limbs in the heart of La Vista, but it appears buildings escaped undamaged, said Joe Soucie, Public Works director.
"We had about seven or eight trees blocking roads last night, but we were very lucky," he said.
The Public Works Department will offer curbside pickup of tree limbs today and Monday. Limbs must be cut into manageable sizes and set along the curb.
For more information, call 402-331-8927.
-- Nancy Gaarder