Late-Season Cold Front to Sweep Through Southeast U.S. = A Weekend to Remember for MS150 Riders

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For many years beginning in 1992, I rode the MS150 from Houston to Austin (‘150’ being a shinier way of concealing the fact that back then it was actually the MS178) and eventually I became part of the event management staff and, for six or seven years, the T-shirt designer.  Officially now known as the BPMS150 Houston to Austin, each year I’d also produce the rider maps and I even wrangled a sweet spot as manager the tour Expo, which is on the Friday night before the tour, so that I could not only help out planning the event but then actually ride the entire thing each year, too.

It’s been several years since I was involved at any level and most years, when April rolls around and the tour weekend looms, I miss being a part of it.  But thanks to this weekend’s regional weather forecast, this might not be one of those years.

For those riding in the event this year, here’s the . . . challenging regional weather outlook for the weekend courtesy of StormWatch Manager Fred Schmude:

“The [current] weather pattern is expected to take a dramatic turn by Friday as a strong upper-level storm system and cold front makes progress toward the area.   Yesterday it appeared this system would move out of the area by Saturday morning in time for the MS150; however, new forecast data indicates this system will likely come in stronger and unfortunately move out slower resulting in breezy and much cooler air for Saturday with a chance of light rain and heavier showers, mainly during the morning.

“The forecast calls for showers and thunderstorms to increase in coverage and intensity Friday afternoon and evening as the storm system moves by the area. Be advised that some of these storms could be strong with gusty winds, small hail and lightning.   Breezy and much cooler air is expected for Saturday morning with a chance of lingering light rain and heavier showers.   Decreasing clouds and breezy conditions Saturday afternoon will be followed by mostly sunny and milder weather on Sunday with slightly lower northerly winds.   Temperatures on Saturday morning are forecast to fall into the mid to upper 50s across the area and may struggle to make 70 degrees during the day depending on how much cloud cover lingers over the region.  Temperatures by Sunday morning are forecast to fall into the upper 40s to lower 50s and rebound back into the lower to mid 70s during the day.   Low-level winds behind the cold front on Saturday morning (including La Grange) and afternoon are forecast to average out of the NW at 12-17 gusting 25 mph, decreasing NNW-N at 10-15 gusting 20 mph for Saturday night into Sunday.

“Please note there’s still some uncertainty on the exact timing of this weather system and we could even see areas of light rain and heavier showers linger into Saturday afternoon over the Houston and La Grange areas.   For now it appears most of the rain will move out of the area Saturday morning  with the main concern for the MS150 being a gusty NW headwind from Houston to La Grange all day Saturday as low pressure strengthens over the Lower Mississippi Valley.”

I’ll never forget one year forever ago (in the mid ‘90’s) when two friends rode the tour with me – two guys who’d never ridden it before.  After the first 103 miles on Day 1, we were enjoying the huge, delicious meal provided by MS Society and volunteers on a ridge overlooking the valley floor at the overnight campsite in La Grange.  That’s when we saw it.  A front.  A big, nasty front that announced its presence by bending trees to its will as it approached.  That night, as our tent walls rocked against our feet, heads and sides, I literally had a dream about scaling Everest.  And the next day, heading NW towards Austin – very much into the wind – was . . . challenging.

Had I signed up to ride this year, knowing what I know now about this weekend’s weather would I still make the ride?  In a heartbeat.  Of all the charities I’ve ever been involved with, the MS Society is by far the most efficiently run, economically driven fundraising machine and because of that, the tangible progress in treatment over the last ten years of the different types of MS has been astonishing.

A hearty salute to all the riders, volunteers and organizers this weekend and especially to BP, longtime sponsor of the largest bike tour in the world.  Go and ride this one.  It won’t be that much more difficult than usual.  But you might remember it for a much longer time.

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