Tailgating NASCAR fans prepare for severe weather in Talladega - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Tailgating NASCAR fans prepare for severe weather in Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. - Recreational vehicles began to arrive at the Talladega Superspeedway campgrounds Sunday night and Monday morning, despite the threat of severe weather.

The upcoming weekend races don't begin until Friday, but hundreds of people will spend the whole week camping and tailgating before the green flag to start the Aaron's 499 drops at noon Sunday.

"If we can get through the next 48 hours, I think we're going to have an awesome weekend of racing, and weather for great racing here at Talladega, so we look forward to getting past this and getting to that," Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch said.

Lynch and his staff met Monday morning with Talladega County EMA workers to discuss upcoming severe weather.  Campers are responsible for their own safety, but the race track staff try to keep the guests informed.

"We don't have shelters for all the people that come to our place, so you depend upon knowing on when it's going to arrive, how fast it's coming, whether it's lightning or storms or potential tornadoes, and letting them know when it's coming," Lynch said.

Security and other employees went to the campgrounds to distribute flyers with local contact information for weather updates.  The sheet lists the Twitter and Facebook information for Talladega County EMA and the National Weather Service Birmingham office, a number for text message updates, local radio station Thunder 92.7 FM, and the ABC 33/40 Weather app for smart phones and tablets.

The flyer also advises campers that if they cannot get to a secure storm safe room, to take shelter in their vehicle, fasten seat belts, and turn on the motor.

"That actually engages your air bags as well as your seat belt systems and gives you some additional protection instead of just sitting in the car without those things hooked up.  The bags themselves and seat belts are made to keep you from getting damaged in a vehicle," Lynch said.

Talladega Superspeedway staff hope campers will get to a safe place rather than put their lives at risk.  There have not been any catastrophic events there during storms in recent years, but there is no way of knowing what might happen this time or the next.

Susanne Diveley drove about 45 minutes from McCalla to tailgate with friends from out of state, but she said she would not stay through a storm.

"I'm actually going home.  I've decided not to ride it out, because three years ago it was bad," Diveley said around noon Monday.

"I'm leaving at 2 o'clock, and I offered them a safe place to stay, to come to my house.  The last one, trees were everywhere.  A camper is not safe, and there's really nowhere to go."

Several others said they would stay and take the chance. Douglas and Cindi Gesar came from Murfreesboro, Tenn., to spend the whole week with fellow race fans from Florida, Kentucky, and Illinois.

"I've been coming here since 1991, every race," Douglas Gesar said.

"We've had the sirens go off before.  Of course it's not a great thing, we'll hunker down as best we can in our campers, and hope it doesn't come through here."

Gesar said it would be nice if the Superspeedway had some community storm shelters.

"It wouldn't hurt, as many campers [as there are here], because if a tornado comes through with all these campers and all the debris, it wouldn't be good," he said.

The Gesars and their friends stayed through past storms, and said they will keep an eye on the weather and hope for the best this week.
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