Beyond the Forecast: Forecasters preparing for Vancouver Olympics

Beyond the Forecast: Forecasters preparing for Vancouver Olympics

Credit: KING

Meteorologists at the Pacific Storm Prediction Centre in Vancouver.

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by JIM GUY / KING 5 Meteorologist

Bio | Email | Follow: @jimguywx

KING5.com

Posted on November 12, 2009 at 8:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 11 at 4:39 PM

Here comes the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Years of planning are about to pay off.

But before the games can begin here in Vancouver, there's a lot of work that needs to be done.  Right now there is a staff of about 35 full time meteorologists at the Pacific Storm Prediction Centre in Vancouver, hard at work, putting together daily forecasts.

Vancouver is the lowest altitude host city in the history of the Winter Games -- sea level.

"What we're really keeping our eye on, and especially with the proximity of the Pacific Ocean, and the sort of local conditions, is any potential for big storms to form," said Environment Canada Meteorologist, Chris Doyle.

"We've planned for two major scenarios, one is no snow, and the other is too much snow.  And they both obviously have very different plans," said VANOC Vice President, Tim Gayda.

The case of not enough snow, that's not a problem. Snow machines are working right now to stockpile an ample supply of snow to be used if needed.

"We also have to work with the snow when it is produced, We're actually out there grooming it to mix it with natural snow to make sure we're getting the hardest base we can for the athletes," said Gayda.

Actually the bigger problem could be too much snow.

"We have quite a high number of snow cats we use to prep the courses, and we figure out how to push it off the courses, and get it out of the way," said Gayda.

But they don't want to get all of it out of the way.

In fact, the athletes prefer the artificial snow. It's much firmer and they're looking for a nice dense surface to race on.

"These guys are going at speeds that they weren't going at 50 years ago. The G-force that they have going into a curve, with a 200-pound athlete, if it's not just solid blue ice, they can break through, and then obviously you have a safety issue for the athlete," said Gayda.

With thousands of athletes and hundreds of thousands of fans attending the games, the forecast has never been more important.

The games don't start until February, but these meteorologists are in training right now, preparing daily forecasts.

"On a daily basis we're creating forecasts at five in the morning, at 7:30 in the morning, there's an afternoon update, there's an evening update, there's forecasts for sport, there's forecasts for public Web site, there's forecasts for the IOC Web site, there's forecasts for VANOC Medical, so there's a lot coming at any one time," said Doyle.

The Winter Olympic Games have never lost an event due to weather. The folks at Vancouver hope to keep that tradition alive.

"We have 17 days to get all those races off, so the window is substantially longer which enables us to do that, so we sure don't want to be the first to not get one off, let's put it that way," said Gayda.

KING 5 will bring you the Winter Olympic Games. Opening ceremonies are on Feb. 12. Events continue through Feb. 28.

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