MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Organizers at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska will certainly be keeping a close eye on the weather this weekend.

One-hundred-and-fifty-six of the top female golfers in the world are in town for the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship. While the golfers hit the Hazeltine greens, there’s important, life-saving work happening in a trailer just off the course.

Hazeltine is expecting 10,000–20,000 people on the course on any given day, and organizers say that weather could be a factor this weekend — so they need to rely on technology and their contingency plans to keep everyone safe.

Meteorologist Joe Halvorson travels around the world tracking tournament weather. Wherever he goes, his lightening tracker goes with him. It sends him real-time information on lightening potential. When things are about to get dangerous, he alerts people like Chandler Withington.

“We try to get people to go to their cars and wait out the storm,” Withington said. “The car is probably the safest place to be.”

Weather-tracking technology has come a long way since a deadly lightning strike on this very course in 1991.

“You realize how fast it can go wrong,” Withington said. “We know where it is, we know when It’s coming. We didn’t have that 30 years ago. We kind of had to eyeball it and listen for thunder.”

The sophistication of Halvorson’s technology keeps golfers and their fans out of harm’s way. But if it’s safe to play, rain or shine, golfers will be on the green this weekend.

“This is like planning a wedding. We can take care of every detail, but the weather does what it wants to do,” Withington said.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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