Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina on Friday, causing at least 5 deaths and thousands more stranded in emergency shelters. Originally classed as a hurricane, Florence has been subsequently downgraded to a tropical storm, however this new classification has not prevented evacuation warnings for 1.7 million people as it is forecast to wreak havoc across North and South Carolina and Virginia. This weekend, emergency service crews and volunteers have been pictured utilising all of their manpower and resources, including boats, helicopters and specially modified vehicles, in order to recue Carolina natives from their homes, many of whom have been reluctant to evacuate due to the fact that many shelters are unable to accommodate pets.
As most members of the equestrian community will know, the World Equestrian Games are currently being hosted in Tyron, North Carolina. The event staff are doing their best to combat the elements and continue to provide a safe and enjoyable event for riders and spectators, however some of the storm’s devastating effects are causing unavoidable delays for a number of the Game’s events.
The National Weather Service has an onsite weather station at the Tyron International Equestrian Center in order to attempt to predict the movements of the storm and plan accordingly. Heavy rain was correctly forecast to start last night (Saturday 15th September) and continues through today, causing the final jumping phase for eventing to be moved to tomorrow (Monday 17th September).
An announcement was made earlier in the week in detailing plans to also move the grand prix freestyle competition to Monday morning, rather than during its allocated slot over the weekend. WEG released a statement saying “Following yesterday’s announcement of the intention to hold the Helgstrand dressage freestyle competition on Monday morning due to extreme rainfall forecast for Sunday’s original time slot of 8.30am, further discussions have been taking place to review options available to reschedule.” Yesterday, disappointed fans received the news that “Despite the best efforts of the whole Tyron 2018 team and the officials, who have been working on plans for rescheduling since yesterday evening… very regrettably, the dressage freestyle will now be cancelled.” Carl Hester, fresh off a stellar performance that contributed to a British team bronze in the dressage on Thursday told the Horse and Hound, “It’s really sad, but with increasing weather problems it has to be horses first and it’s the right decision.”
The storm is forecast to continue its course south down the U.S.’s east coast, so hopefully disruptions of the Games will now be coming to an end, but if you’re planning on visiting the site over the next few days, be sure to check out the World Equestrian Games website for live weather updates.