Miami-Dade County

Ultra and Miami Open fans will feel the wind (and possibly the rain)

The stages are set on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 as final preparations are done for this weekend’s Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami.
The stages are set on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 as final preparations are done for this weekend’s Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

Likely rainstorms will clear early Friday just in time for a weekend jammed with big outdoor events like the Ultra music fest and the Miami Open tennis tourney, forecasters say. But it’s still going to blow, big time.

The National Weather Service says the foul weather Thursday evening would ride in on unusually strong, gusting winds that are likely to persist through Saturday night. That will make it harder to hit a tennis ball squarely and prompt Ultra organizers to keep a watchful eye on weather vanes mounted atop the festival’s multiple temporary stages.

The overnight showers and thunderstorms will give way to a partly sunny Friday with just a 20 percent chance of rain in Miami, and the rest of the weekend should remain dry, forecasters said. That’s a sure relief not just for Ultra and Miami Open promoters, but for the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair, which opens this weekend, and countless college spring breakers, too.

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But the main issue well into the weekend might well be wind. As in a steady, blowing wind between 18 and 23 mph on Friday along the coast, and gusting to as high as 30 mph during the day. The intensity will decrease on Saturday, with gusts as high as 24 mph, before returning to a more-seasonal but still-breezy 10 to 13 mph on Sunday. Wind intensity will be lower in West Miami-Dade for the Youth Fair.

The good news: The sun will be out and temperatures will be mild enough for Goldilocks.

“The temperature looks nice: Not too cold, not too hot,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Hagen said. “The weather is not going to be perfect. But once we get into the weekend, things are going to get a bit better.”

The advice for Ultra-goers: Pack a poncho or a windbreaker, just in case, but not an umbrella — those aren’t allowed.

But it has rained at Ultra before, and a little water doesn’t seem to ever dampen festival-goers’, uhm, enthusiasm.

“Two years ago on Friday it rained heavily,” said Ultra security boss Ray Martinez, a former Miami Beach police chief. “It was actually nice because it cooled everybody down. Some people left. The vast majority stayed and enjoyed the show.”

Thunderstorms and very high winds, though, could be another matter. The festival has a detailed severe-weather response plan developed in coordination with the Miami Fire Department, Martinez said. Each of the multiple stages, engineered to withstand severe weather and certified by Miami’s building department, has a wind vane. Speeds are monitored constantly once breezes rise beyond a certain point, he said.

If winds pick up beyond certain thresholds, crews will draw up the cloth curtains draped around venues and lower video screens. Only in case of severe wind or storms would a show be stopped, something that’s happened occasionally.

“Right now, the projected wind speeds don’t require any action from us. But that can change,” Martinez said. “Rain doesn’t really bother us. If it’s a blowing rain, we may have to shut down a stage for a time. If it’s just rain, the show goes on.”

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