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NFL, CMA among those at Okla. weather conference

Wednesday - 3/6/2013, 10:32pm  ET

FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2011 file photo, Indiana State Police and authorities survey the collapsed rigging and Sugarland stage on the infield at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. The stage collapse before a Sugarland concert was a late wake-up call for people who manage large public venues like concert grounds and football stadiums. Venue managers gathered in Norman, Okla., Tuesday and Wednesday, March 5-6, with weather forecasters and revealed there have been many close calls. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

DAN HOLTMEYER
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Event organizers have learned the hard way that the usual half-hour warning of severe weather might be enough for people in their homes, but it's not enough to clear people from big venues where concerts and football games are held.

Seven people died and more than 40 were injured at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 when a sudden 60 mph gust knocked a stage onto a crowd waiting to see the band Sugarland perform. In 2009, high wind toppled a canopy at a Dallas Cowboys practice facility, leaving one person paralyzed and 11 others less seriously hurt.

"Like 9-11, it takes a really bad thing to get our attention," said Harold Hansen, the life, safety and security director for the International Association of Venue Managers. "The rules changed."

The incidents prompted venue managers to move their annual storm-preparedness meeting to the National Weather Center in Norman, Okla. -- the heart of Tornado Alley and the forecast centers that watch it.

"Now some of the heavy hitters are getting involved," said David VandenHeuvel, a senior vice president with Weather Decision Technologies, which has provided forecasts to about 150 events in the past 1
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