Joan Nelson has been a Washington football season-ticket holder for over 40 years so she’s a bit of a historian when it comes to her favorite college team.
The 72-year-old Everett native said she has never seen anything like what she witnessed Saturday night at Husky Stadium – a lightning delay that suspended the UW-California for 2 hours and 38 minutes.
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s something new,” Nelson said. “We’ve been coming to games for about 40 years and we’ve never, ever seen this before. It’s so exciting, but yet we wanted to see (Jacob) Eason play.”
A severe weather delay forced both teams to leave the field and scurry to the locker room at 7:51 p.m. with 9:46 remaining in the first quarter of a scoreless game.
Minutes later, fans were instructed to vacate the metal seats in the stands and seek shelter inside the corridors at Husky Stadium as lightning flashed overhead Lake Washington and rain began to fall. Stadium lights went out shortly after due to a power surge.
“It’s like sardines, it’s so packed in here,” said Valerie Nelson, 60, of Lynnwood. “We came up from our seats and we had to squeeze our way through. But everybody has been polite. Nobody is upset. It’s kind of like having a party.”
During the delay, fans entertained themselves with their cell phones, watched football games on the TVs in the corridors or huddled with family and friends.
California’s student marching band took selfies with the crowd while long lines formed at the concession stands.
One Golden Bears fan said: “The Huskies will do anything to get out of playing Cal.”
Fans were eager for updates. Word quickly spread about game protocols, which mandates a 30-minute delay after each flash of lightening.
“I’m from L.A., so no I wasn’t expecting this,” said Karif Byrd, 41. “I saw some things on the forecast, but it kept changing. It went from 40 percent chance of rain to 50 percent chance. It kept changing. I thought we’d be OK and we get here, but all of a sudden, (five) minutes into the game they’re running off the field.”
Byrd was intent on waiting out the delay because his younger brother Julius Irvin is a freshman defensive back for the Huskies.
Still, Byrd believed the game would be postponed.
“I don’t see them playing this game,” he said. “If they do, it’s going to end well after midnight.”
The DJ at Husky Stadium kept the crowd entertained with a playlist that included rain-themed tunes, including Thunderstruck, by AC/DC, Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen and of course, Prince’s Purple Rain.
At 10:10 p.m., UW coach Chris Petersen stepped on the field with a microphone and said: “Can you hear me, Dawg fans? We’re rolling at 10:30. Call your friends and get them back in the stadium.”
The fans in the tunnels roared, at least those who stuck around. When the game resumed, the remaining fans brought the noise.
“We gave it an hour,” said Suzettle Cruz, 40, of Seattle. “My 12-year-old (Aztlan) was tracking the lightning strikes. We kept saying 30 more minutes and 30 more minutes. But then, enough is enough and it was time to call an Uber.
“At 9:30 we’re out. We definitely have a story to tell. It’s definitely going to be memorable.”