Lightning forces evacuation, delays BBQ contest

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Storms moved through Memphis on Friday afternoon and shutdown Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest temporarily.

The weather was not technically severe, but the storms did contain heavy downpours, wind gusts, and lightning. Organizers said they made everyone leave the area, just to be safe.

"There was a report of a lightning strike-- it was nearby so again abundantly cautious," organizer Robert Griffin said.

The weather delay lasted more than three hours.

Competitors said they understood and weren't shocked that they had to evacuate the park.

"We've been run out of here by tornadoes before, and then came back," Gayle Skelton with Pages Pig Pen said.

Skelton said rain or shine her team is ready to bring the best for the judges.

Memphis in May released the following statement about the decision to evacuate Top Lee Park:

"Out of an abundance of caution, Memphis in May officials made the decision to evacuate Tom Lee Park due to storms containing lightning as seen on radar.  Lightning strikes were reported within five miles of the Park, which triggered the evacuation of the guests and team members for their safety.  After closely monitoring the unstable weather, the gates reopened at 4:30pm and the remaining events and entertainment scheduled for the night including the concert by Coolio, will proceed as planned.

If you're going to be at the barbecue contest this weekend, or if you just want to make sure you're ahead of any storms trying to rain on your parade, be sure to download the free WMC Action News 5 Weather App. It's available on Android and Apple devices.

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