UT commencement could be damp; if worse, may be pushed back to Sunday


Highlights

University officials say they will decide Saturday whether the show will go on, or be delayed a day.

Forecasters aren’t as worried about flash flooding because the region has been largely rain-free recently.

Planning to attend the University of Texas’ commencement ceremony on Saturday? You might want to bring a poncho — and also keep your Sunday evening open, according to an American-Statesman investigation into the weekend forecast.

University officials are still planning to hold the ceremony on Saturday night. But with a cold front seeming likely to stall over Central Texas, potentially causing storms, pockets of downpours and lightning, UT has scheduled a backup date of Sunday “in the event weather poses a danger.” University officials will make the final call Saturday and are urging those who might attend to sign up for free text message updates.

Lightning is the main concern. If it is spotted within 8 miles of the ceremony, crowds will be moved inside and the situation will be evaluated from there, according to university officials. Depending on the circumstances, the ceremony might simply be delayed or it might be rescheduled.

“If commencement is rescheduled for Sunday, all activities will start one hour earlier than originally planned” — meaning seating would open at 4 p.m. — according to a university statement, which adds, “If the university needs to reschedule due to weather danger, it will announce the decision Saturday.”

Rain alone would almost certainly not cause the ceremony to be moved to Sunday. UT police have been advising people to bring ponchos but warning them to not bring umbrellas.

This weekend’s potentially problematic weather is linked to the moisture that has flowed into Central Texas from the Gulf of Mexico and made Austin feel strangely, grossly Houston-esque. That moisture could be pulled up high into the atmosphere by the cold front, in which case it would hit an unstable stretch of sky and might be turned into rain and possibly hail.

National Weather Service forecasts Friday afternoon were calling for a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms for all of Saturday and early Sunday, which means Austin will almost certainly see rain. Another way to think of it: Someone sitting on the Main Mall just south of the UT Tower over the next 24 hours will have a 60 percent chance of getting wet.

Although forecasters say the region could see 1 to 3 inches of rain through Tuesday morning, the weather service isn’t as worried about flash flooding because the region has been largely rain-free for the past few weeks.

Rain chances will persist through early next week, should the cold front continue its slow roll as expected.

“Pockets of locally heavy rainfall and isolated strong to severe storms will be possible Saturday through Monday,” with isolated thunderstorms Tuesday also possible, according to the weather service forecast.



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