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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 01/ 1/2011

Sat update: Weather delays Winter Classic til 8 PM

By Jason Samenow

Forecast for Caps-Penguins outdoor game Saturday

A rainfall simulation made from the National Weather Service GFS model for Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Graphic courtesy, adapted by CWG.

Special coverage: Bracing for the Winter Classic

Saturday update: A large area of rain is over Pittsburgh this morning (see regional radar) which will take until early-to-mid afternoon to pass through. After that, rain decreases as temperatures, currently around 50, fall back through the 40s. It was a good call to push the game back to 8 p.m.. Temps should be right around 40 degrees at faceoff with only an outside chance of a light shower. By game's end, it should be around 37 with a wind from the west around 10 mph. Bundle up.

Friday update: The bad news is that computer models are more or less unanimous is simulating about 0.5" of rain in Pittsburgh between Saturday morning and afternoon. The good news is that about 80% of it falls before 1 p.m., after which the rain gradually decreases in coverage and intensity. This timing increases the possibility that, if the game has to be delayed, it could still be played later in the afternoon or in the evening. Any rain after 3 or 4 p.m. is likely to be very light the way it looks now. Temperatures are mild early - with highs in the low 50s late in the morning, but fall back through the 40s during the afternoon as a cold front passes by. Winds will be from the south in the morning around 10 mph, gradually becoming from the west in the afternoon around 10-15 mph.

Keep reading for earlier updates and discussion...

A rainfall simulation made Thursday morning from the National Weather Service GFS model for Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Graphic courtesy, adapted by CWG.

Thursday afternoon update: Bad news. Weather models have generally trended wetter for the forecast for Pittsburgh between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday (when the Caps play the Penguins at Heinz field). The GFS model (shown above) now indicates 0.5-0.75" of rain will fall on Pittsburgh during that time span (compared to 0.25-0.5" yesterday) and another model, the NAM, also simulates moderate to even heavy rain. If there is any good news, it appears steady rain should cutoff between 3 and 6 p.m. even if scattered light showers linger, potentially opening a window to fit the game in later Saturday should the game be delayed.

From Wednesday: The Caps face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the much anticipated "Winter Classic" this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field. As the game is being played in the open air, National Hockey League officials are keeping a watchful eye on the weather.

The concern is not the mild temperatures, which should be in the low 50s Saturday afternoon. The outdoor ice "can survive ... even warmer temperatures, thanks to a sophisticated refrigeration system that can maintain the ice temperature at 22 degrees" according to the Sporting News . The real worry is rain that "can flood the surface, make the ice uneven and make it unsafe for the players involved."

A rainfall simulation made Wednesday from the National Weather Service GFS model (from this morning) for Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Graphic courtesy, adapted by CWG.

The National Weather Service's GFS (Global Forecast System) model, shown above, indicates between a quarter and half inch of rain is likely to fall in Pittsburgh during the six hours spanning the period prior to game time and the game itself. The European forecast model, not shown, simulates a similar amount of rain. The cause of the rain is a cold front which should pass through the region in the early-to-mid evening, bringing an end to the rain and colder temperatures.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette states NHL officials are committed to beginning the game at 1 p.m. However, my colleague Katie Carrera reports:

If conditions, particularly steady rain or downpours, compromise the ice surface - and subsequently, player safety - or threaten to significantly disrupt the flow of the game, the NHL and its television partners can delay the start of the contest until as late as 8 p.m. In the event of a complete postponement on Saturday, the game could be moved to a noon start on Sunday. If the game cannot take place on either date, it will be rescheduled for later in the season at Consol Energy Center, where the Penguins play.

As the exact details of the rain's timing and amounts are likely to evolve over the next several days, stay tuned to this blog, as we'll provide daily updates on the forecast...

By Jason Samenow  | January 1, 2011; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  EventCasts, Latest  
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Thanks for the EventCast here - I've been awaiting this one longer than an SLCB. :)

The Caps fan in me says that they should just move the game to DC, but that's good news that it should dry out in the evening. Hopefully they can make a decision early enough that you don't have 40 players sitting around trying to get psyched up for a huge game for 6 or more hours until the cold front passes.

Any idea on how much or if the wind is supposed to kick up behind the front, and how that will align with the open end of Heinz Field?

Posted by: vtavgjoe | December 29, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

This could be the second sporting event postponed in PA in less than a week. First, the football game was canceled due to a raging blizzard; and now, a hockey game may be canceled due to a warm rain. What a contrast...

Posted by: BobMiller2 | December 29, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

If it's too mild and rainy outside, can't they just move the game inside the Penguins' arena?

Posted by: Bombo47jea | December 30, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Post-Gazette saying this;

It is believed that NBC has given the NHL a long window for airing the game, perhaps up until "Saturday Night Live," which begins at 11:30 p.m., so the game could be pushed back or endure delays through the day and evening.

Although there is no tarp that can cover the ice if there is heavy rain, at least one Zamboni being used at Heinz Field has the ability to vacuum water.

If it is determined the game needs to be postponed, it would be rescheduled for noon Sunday at Heinz Field. If it can't be played Saturday or Sunday, it would be scheduled for Consol Energy Center at a later date.

Read more:

Posted by: jaybird926 | December 30, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

Bombo, The whole point is that it IS an outdoor game. They'll only move it inside if they can't play it the entire weekend.

Posted by: Juli-uh | December 30, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

If they move inside, who gets to attend? Heinz Field seats what, 55,000-60,000? Most hockey arenas seat 18,000-20,000.


Posted by: goaldigger | December 30, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

See, here's yet another of many reasons for why the Classuc should've been held in a neutral zone.

Posted by: TheAnalyst | December 30, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

LOL, I meant "Classic".

Posted by: TheAnalyst | December 30, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Bombo: They sold thousands more tickets to the game at Heinz Field that what Consol Energy Center can hold. I think they said 60,000 for Heinz Field and a hockey arena is around 18,000. If the game is not played on Saturday, then they will try for Sunday. If they can't hold it either day, it will be played at a later date at Consol and issue refunds.

Posted by: NovaCath | December 30, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe the planners did not anticipate rain, or design a rain catchment system to divert the rain off the ice surface. This is not rocket science. Who is in charge here?

And anyone who has ever played hockey knows that the puck does not slide with the least bit of water on the ice. This game is going to be a disaster, and hopefully, there will not be player injuries de to the soft ice.

Posted by: doinguptheritz | January 1, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

not surprised this happened in pittsburgh - This is why they all move to DC

Posted by: Nats1924 | January 1, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

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