National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

1979 Monsoon Game - Bucs vs The Chiefs
Sunday, December 16, 1979

In Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers prepared to play the Kansas City Chiefs as rain began to pour on what was about to become the 1979 Monsoon Game. The field was covered in water and mud, and water was flowing down the stadium steps like a waterfall. In all, there were 7 fumbles and 5 turnovers. The Buccaneers picked up a win with the score of 3-0 on a 19 yard field goal in the fourth quarter.  The fans who braved the torrents of rain got to see the first division championship in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history.

Billy Abernathy, Polk County Emergency Management, was at the game and shared his experience below.

It strange that you remember certain occurrences from the past. One of those occurrences was the Buccaneers game with the KC Chiefs in 1979 at the Big Sombrero. The reason I remember that game so vividly was the rainfall. Our seats were located in the South End Zone and the sheets of water were flowing downward over the steps like a water fall. I can remember kidding that “Hey guys, look now we have the only waterfall in Florida”. I am not sure what was more fun, the game or the watching the water phenomenon that was occurring. Although it was a championship game, it was fun just watching all the players from both sides trying to navigate the sheet of water that was on the field. At times it was hard to see the lines on the field. During most of the game very few passes were attempted considering the conditions, most were rushing plays. Neither team could actually establish scoring drives because of fumbling the wet ball and/or slipping down. It was like watching deer attempting to run on ice, it was hysterical. Mud Ball 1979 was one of the memories that will truly stay with me for the rest of my life. I have been a season ticket holder for over three decades and have never seen another game like it.

Weather map for morning December 16 1979 Low pressure was developing in the central Gulf of Mexico early Sunday morning and would move east along a stationary front extending into south Florida.  The low would lift the moisture over the front cause clouds and rain. 



We ran a computer model using the old data to see how the new model would handle such a storm.  The model image on the left is from the Advanced Research WRF model and displays wind barbs and pressure.  The blue colors are wind speeds of 12 to 24 knots. 

The forecast image was for 8 PM Sunday, which is after the football game finished.  The forecast map showed low pressure off the Tampa Bay coast with a warm front curving into south Florida.  Temperatures were 75 to 80 south of the front and in the 60s to the north.  The warm humid air pushed up and over the cooler air north of the front to create clouds and bands of heavy rain. 

The computer model did not pick up on the isolated nature of the heavy rain.  The Tampa International Airport, which is one mile west of the stadium, only recorded 1.01 inches of rain.  While radar images are not available for the event, it is thought that a rain band continuously developed south of the stadium and trained to the north.  No severe weather was reported.