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Storms Force Fans to Evacuate Stands at Soldier Field

High winds, torrential rain pound Soldier Field in first quarter of Ravens-Bears game

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Fans and players were evacuated from the Bears game Sunday at Soldier Field.

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Bears Fans Brace for Severe Weather

Officials and fans at Soldier Field are preparing for the severe weather expected to hit during the Bears game Sunday.
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The Chicago Bears resumed their game against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon after severe weather prompted an evacuation of Soldier Field.

UPDATE: 2:00pm 

Officials are currently taking a look at the playing surface at Soldier Field as heavy rain continues to come down. The announcement was just made at the stadium that fans can return to their seats at 2:15pm, and that the game will resume at 2:25pm. Here is a picture from Soldier Field right now from NBC 5's Laurence Holmes: 

UPDATE: 1:40pm 

According to various media reports, fans will be able to return to their seats around 2pm, and the game will resume around 2:25pm or so. A strong line of storms has passed through the city, and after a second line of storms goes through, the plan is to get fans back into seating areas first, then get players on the field for warmups, and finally to resume the game after a two-hour delay. 

When fans or media figures talk about the phenomenon known as “Chicago Bears weather,” they are usually referring to ice cold conditions, snow, and plenty of wind.

On Sunday however, that term is took on a whole new meaning, according to NBC Chicago's Peggy Kusinski.

Fans and players were being asked to clear the stands at Soldier Field around 12:30 p.m. and the game was suspended until further notice.

According to NBC 5’s Cheryl Scott, weather was bad news for fans heading to Soldier Field for the Bears’ game against the Baltimore Ravens:

The game started at noon, and according to the National Weather Service, the three-hour window in which the Bears are supposed to be playing is going to be rife with scattered thunderstorms, and is the best chance for there to be isolated tornadoes around the Chicago area. Weather.com tells a similar story, as there is a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms at 2pm, and that chance increases to 70 percent as the game will be heading towards its conclusion.

"We've seen all kinds of weather in Chicago," said General Manager of Soldier Field Tim LeFevour. "We always talk about Bears weather, Bear football weather... this might be a little extreme."

LeFevour said objects that could come loose in the storm are being taken down before the game and evacuation procedures are in place.

"The priority is to get fans to safe zones in the event of severe weather," he said.

LeFevour also said there is a possibility that fans could be evacuated before players are taken off the field. Estimates in place for the event of an evacuation during the game are that it would take about 15-20 minutes to get fans to safety in the event of a weather warning. 

At 10am, the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications issued a press release urging fans to "take extra precautions" at Soldier Field. The release cited potential wind gusts of over 70 MPH and the possibility of cloud-to-ground lightning and large hail as reasons for concern. 

Even if the weather only ends up featuring heavy rainfall, that could still be an issue for Bears fans according to our Peggy Kusinski: 

Not only is there a threat of severe weather to worry about (the NFL will stop the game if there is lightning, and cannot continue the contest until 30 minutes elapses between lightning strikes), but the wind will also be a factor in the game. Forecasted wind speeds at the start of the game will be averaging over 25 mph, and will likely be gusting well above that throughout the contest.

Those kind of wind speeds will not only wreak havoc on the kickers in the game, but the passing game for both teams is going to be severely compromised by the conditions. The Bears will likely be affected less with Josh McCown favoring a shorter game over the middle of the field, but the Ravens and Joe Flacco are going to lose their deep threats like Torrey Smith if conditions end up as forecasted when the kickoff occurs.

Stay tuned to NBC 5 Chicago throughout the day for all the latest weather updates, and follow @CherylScottWX on Twitter for instantaneous updates.

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