The Worst Natural Disasters in Sports History

On Friday, July 5th, 2019, the New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks were set to play in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League. A 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Southern California forced the NBA to cancel the end of the game due to safety concerns. 

It wasn’t the first time that a natural disaster caused a disruption to the sports schedule. Here are some of the worst natural disasters in sports history

1989 World Series – Oakland Athletics vs. San Francisco Giants

The 1989 World Series would pit Oakland and San Francisco against each other, putting the neighboring franchises in the Fall Classic together for the first time.

Shockingly, just prior to Game 3 of the series on October 17th, the Loma Prieta Earthquake rocked the Bay Area. Due to the damage done to the surrounding area, the series was postponed for a week. Afterward, the A’s went on to win it four games to none. 

The earthquake also impacted the NFL, as the San Francisco 49ers October 22nd game against the New England Patriots had to be relocated to Palo Alto. 

2003 Miami Dolphins vs. San Diego Chargers

Raging wildfires in the San Diego area forced the Chargers to seek refuge in Tempe, Arizona for an October 27th game against the Miami Dolphins. Undoubtedly with the safety of their homes on their minds, the Chargers would lose to the Fins 26-10. 

2008 Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros

In September 2008 Hurricane Ike would devastate the state of Texas, with winds of over 110 miles per hour hitting the city of Houston. Flooding would be rampant throughout the city.

While the Astros stated they could play a game, the damage to the area was too much. MLB asked them to relocate. So the games were instead played in Milwaukee at the Brewers’ home park. 

2004 Montreal Expos vs. Florida Marlins

The state of Florida is no stranger to hurricanes or torrential downpours. In 2004 it was hit by yet another one: Hurricane Ivan. In September of that year, the storm forced the Marlins to relocate their series against the Montreal Expos to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago at the White Sox home park. 

What made this even more frustrating for the Marlins? Another storm a week earlier, Hurricane Frances, had delayed their series against the Chicago Cubs. 

2005 New Orleans Saints/New Orleans Hornets

The New Orleans, Louisiana area was decimated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 leading to a tragic emergency response that drew headlines nationwide. Residents lost their homes and lives and the economic impacts to the area were considerable. While the fate of the city’s sports teams was the last thing on anyone’s minds, their two professional franchises were affected significantly. 

Because of the storm, the Saints and Hornets needed to relocate. The Saints played their remaining games in San Antonio while the Hornets moved to Oklahoma City. The Saints would rebound eventually, signing Drew Brees and winning the 2009 Super Bowl. The Oklahoma City area’s embrace of the Hornets paved the way for professional basketball in the area. The Seattle Sonics would move there a few seasons later. 

2008 SEC men’s basketball tournament

The 2008 SEC men’s basketball tournament was held in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. On Friday, March 14th at 9:40 p.m. a tornado hit the arena during the Mississippi State versus Alabama quarterfinal.

$1.8 million in damage was caused to the city, with the pieces of the arena coming detached during the tournament and a scoreboard swaying. A quick decision was made by SEC leadership to relocate the event to Georgia Tech’s facilities. Georgia Tech’s staff came through at the last minute to make sure the tournament could still occur.