Storm passes, leaving wind in its wake

VIERA, Fla. - We've survived a gullywasher that blew through Brevard County this morning, and now Space Coast Stadium is being whipped by gusty winds. On my drive from my hotel in Melbourne this morning, I was three blocks from the ballpark when a weather advisory warning of winds in excess of 50 mph interrupted my morning helping of classic rock.

How windy is it? Well, while setting up my laptop, I was treated to some theater of the absurd that tested the mettle of the grounds crew. All of a sudden the heavy metal dowel the tarp is usually wrapped around - when it's not covering the field, as it is now - started blowing out to center field. That thing isn't light, so you can imagine the force it took to move it around with ease. While the dowel blew into the outfield, the tarp started blowing off the top corner of the infield diamond. Luckily, the rest of the tarp is weighted down with sandbags, thought the wind is testing them.

In came the cavalry, about a half-dozen grounds crew members sprinting from beyond the batter's eye in center field. They retrieved the metal roller, steered it back into place and blocked it in place with some sandbags, folding a portion of the tarp beneath it. For now, the dowel is holding down the tarp at second base, the batting cage is doing the trick at home plate, a motorized cart is handling chores at third base and what appears to be a lawn mower is stationed at first. Another tractor is stationed at second base. There's nothing playing shortstop.

The good news is that the deluge seems to have passed. The bad news is the winds are sticking around for a while. When you tune in to MASN today, where Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo will have the call at 1 p.m. as the Nationals host the Astros, expect to hear a lot of wind, even through the microphone covers designed to shield it. But I think we'll still be playing ball, though those fly balls and pop-ups may be a tad tricky.

Using the Beaufort Scale, a leftover in my memory banks from my Boy Scout days, I'd estimate that we're currently getting sustained gusts in the range of 25-30 mph, which are sufficient to knock around empty plastic garbage cans.

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