Wednesday, October 29, 1997
Snowstorm gives Abilene vet chance to ref on
By Al Pickett / Abilene Reporter-News
It is the goal of every football player -- and probably every
coach and even every referee -- to someday work on Sunday.
Well, Dr. Lynn Lawhon achieved that goal last weekend, but
it wasn't the NFL.
Lawhon, an Abilene veterinarian who is president of the Abilene
chapter of the Southwest Football Officials Association, is also
a Western Athletic Conference football official.
He was assigned to work the Tulsa-Colorado State game Saturday
in Fort Collins, Colo. But because of the blizzard that hit Colorado
Saturday, the game was postponed a day.
It kicked off at noon Sunday, 24 hours late. Only 10,000 fans
showed up for the game Sunday, compared to 25,000 tickets that
had been sold. But at least the two feet of snow that had fallen
the day before had been cleared off the field.
By the end of the game Sunday, the temperature had "warmed
up" to a balmy 40 degrees, a sharp contrast to the 20-below
wind-chill factor at the scheduled kickoff time on Saturday.
"I had never been in a blizzard before," said Lawhon,
who finally got back home to Abilene late Sunday night. "It
Lawhon said he had been watching the weather channel all week
and knew that snow was in the forecast for the Denver area. So
he caught an earlier flight Friday out of Abilene.
It was 85 degrees when he left Dallas, but it was snowing when
Lawhon arrived in Denver.
"It continued to snow and continued to snow and continued
to snow," he said.
By the time the crew received its 5:30 a.m. wakeup call Saturday,
it was still snowing. The new Denver International Airport, designed
to stay open in all weather, had been shut down.
Incidentally, the only flight to get out of Denver Saturday
was the Denver Broncos' charter flight to Buffalo for their game
Sunday with the Bills.
"We turned on local TV and radio," Lawhon said. "It
seemed like the snowstorm caught everyone by surprise. By the
time they reacted, cars were stuck on the sides of the road. They
couldn't get snowplows out, and they had a disaster."
Lawhon and his officiating crew kept trying every number they
had for Colorado State coaches and athletic department officials
but couldn't get an answer. So they left Denver at 7 a.m. and
headed north for Fort Collins. Driving in a blinding blizzard,
Lawhon said it took them 21/2 hours to go 60 miles.
When they finally arrived at Colorado State, more than 15 inches
of snow were on the field and it was still snowing.
"By that time, the governor had declared a state of emergency,"
Lawhon said. "Every interstate in the state was closed except
that stretch of I-25 from Denver to Fort Collins. And it was closed
Finally, after lengthy discussions between the WAC commissioner,
the game officials and Colorado State officials, it was decided
to postpone the game 24 hours.
Lawhon's adventures weren't over yet, however. Colorado State
officials secured rooms in the local Holiday Inn for the officials
to spend the night Saturday night.
"But all our personal things were in Denver," he
said. "We had no change of clothes. We went to Target and
bought shaving cream and deoderant. All of us have Target flannel
By noon Sunday, the sun had come out and temperatures were
warming up. The field had been cleared of snow, although the snow
was piled more than six feet high just beyond the end zone.
"I've been in some cold games in the Panhandle before,
but nothing like that," Lawhon said.
His first opportunity to call a football game on Sunday was
definitely not what Lawhon had envisioned.
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