Well, that’s not something you see all the time.
Charleston’s 50th meeting with the Richmond Kickers was postponed by lightning Friday night, leaving the two clubs to work out a new date to reschedule the second of their three 2014 USL PRO contests.
The match — its start scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and delayed by roughly 45 minutes as a tight but intense cell of thunderstorms prowled past the north end of Blackbaud Stadium — ended abruptly in the 18th minute of play. Fans huddled under the stands while lightning strikes — some of them within less than three miles — shook the skies, and bands of rain raked the empty seats.
At 9:45, the club announced that the match would be postponed indefinitely, and the last remnants of the audience began filing out to the parking lot.
Under league safety rules, a lightning strike within six miles of the stadium is supposed to initiate a 20-minute delay, with players, coaches and fans in exposed positions required to take shelter. The forecast called for a 30 percent chance of rain at kickoff, and ominous clouds gathered north of Daniel Island, but both teams began their warm-ups under sunny skies around 7 p.m. Within 15 minutes, however, the monitoring system was registering lightning strikes within the safety zone, and everyone filed out of the stands — without a drop of rain falling.
The rain would come, though, bringing sporadic lightning with it. As the cell moved east, taking the electrical storm out of the safety zone, the fans and teams returned tot he stadium and the game got underway rapidly — without player introductions or the playing of the National Anthem.
Seconds after kickoff, lightning flashed on the eastern horizon.
As for the match itself, it was notable two things: A punch-clearance by a charging Odisnel Cooper that fell to Richmond, forcing Cooper into a spectacularly athletic save from a high position; and a yellow card to Kickers captain Henry Kalungi for a collision with the Battery’s Zach Prince. The two clashed initially in the early going, and appeared to continue their exchange as the teams were led off the field after officials stopped the match.
The initial band of lightning to the east was largely outside the safe zone during the match, but a slower moving second cell rolling in from west settled matters. Each new strike within the safety zone reset the delay clock by a new 20 minutes, and eventually forced club officials to make a decision.
At some point this season, Richmond will return to Blackbaud. When they do, Friday’s match will resume in the 18th minute, with Kalungi carrying a yellow. Both teams will be limited to the number of changes they can make to their game-day 18.
Meanwhile, the Kickers play Wilmington tonight (Saturday, June 28) night, and the Battery begin preparations for their weekend trip to Pennsylvania and a 6 p.m. match with the Harrisburg City Islanders on Saturday, July 5.
TOP IMAGE: That’s a generic NOAA lightning strike photo, not anything I took at the game on Friday.