The forecast in the Twin Cities on Wednesday called for high winds and rain, similar to the weather 31 years ago that ripped through the Metrodome roof in the eighth inning of a Twins game.
A severe thunderstorm with wind gusts up to 80 mph on April 26, 1986, blew through a panel above the right-center field upper deck, creating a frightening scene inside the stadium. Puddles gathered in aisles below the tear, the roof began to deflate, and the upper deck was evacuated.
Here is how Star Tribune reporter Jay Weiner described it 31 years ago:
“The Dome's roof was whacked by a sudden, violent gust of wind shortly after 10 p.m.
“Soon after the wind struck, the stadium's lights, cabled to the roof, began swaying and moving up and down, along with the stadium's speakers. Four banks of lights, each weighing an average of 10,000 pounds, hang over the field.
“Meanwhile, plugs in the Dome's outer shell popped, and water poured over seats down the third base line. The roof, which requires 60 million cubic feet of air to stay up, began to sag in center field as the facility's automatic air-pressure controls apparently misread the effects of the wind.”
The game, in which the Twins led 6-1 when the gust of wind hit, was delayed just nine minutes while air was pumped back into the Dome. There was no structural damage to the stadium and no serious fan injuries.
However, the Twins left the stadium deflated after blowing a five-run lead in the ninth inning. The California Angels hit three two-home runs to rally for a 7-6 victory.
Star Tribune Twins writer Dennis Brackin wrote 31 years ago, “It was in the second inning of Saturday's bizarre 7-6 loss to California that the occupants of the Twins bullpen first noticed the
ominous storm rattling the Metrodome roof. At the time, it was cause for some good-natured kidding.
“ '(Dennis) Burtt, (Mark) Portugal and I were discussing what we'd do if the Dome collapsed,' rookie Bill Latham said. 'Portugal said he'd crawl under the (bullpen) bench. But we finally decided we'd haul it for the dugout. Six innings later, we were on our way to the dugout.'
“It wasn't so funny then. ... The Twins were [eventually] able to find humor in Saturday's Dome drama. Tom Brunansky, with the roof tear just above his head, said he took right field in the ninth inning [the next day] with some trepidation.
" 'I made sure I kept my eyes on the speakers above me,' [Tom Brunansky] said. 'I made sure I was standing between them, so I would have a good head start if they came down.' "
This was one of many Dome incidents during its 31-year lifespan:
Nov. 18, 1981 – Even before the inside of the stadium was completed, the roof had a problem. Under the weight of 10 inches of heavy snow, the roof partially deflated.
Nov. 19, 1981 – A day later, a 30-foot tear in the outer layer of the roof opened over what is now left-center field. A fabric panel on the north side was punctured by a piece of steel support that had been bent after a bolt snapped. It was thought that the bolt had been weakened the night before during the storm. The roof then deflated. A week later, after the panel was repaired, the roof was reinflated.
Dec. 30, 1982 – A snowslide caused a roof panel to billow into the bucket of a crane being used for snow removal, causing a gash in the 190- by 50-foot rectangle.
April 14, 1983 – The Dome deflated after late-season snow caused a tear in the roof and postponed the Twins-Angels scheduled game.
April 26, 1986 – A severe thunderstorm with high winds ripped a panel off the roof in the eighth inning of the Twins-Angels game.
Dec. 12, 2010 – After a severe winter storm and 17 inches of snow, the roof became unsafe for snow removal and began to sag in the middle. Early morning Dec. 12, the roof collapsed with three panels tearing open and sending ice and snow into the stadium. The Vikings were forced to relocate their game against the New York Giants to Ford Field in Detroit.
Jan. 18, 2014 – The Metrodome was deflated for the final time as part of preparations to demolish the stadium and begin building U.S. Bank Stadium.