ST. PETERSBURG — Just how loud are those open wheel racers when they're zooming around at high speeds? Practice runs began Friday at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg's track, and we took a decibel meter downtown to find out.
At the corner of First Avenue N and First Street N, noise hit about 83 decibels. That's as loud as average city traffic, according to the American Tinnitus Association.
Around the corner at Ceviche, though, the roar really picked up. We clocked it at 104 decibels, somewhere between the level of a subway train and that of a chain saw.
A crowd gathered near the fence there, and when Kyle Feller jumped off his bike a few yards from them, he was smiling. He had tickets for the day, and the sound drew him in. He could hear the buzz from his home at Ninth Avenue N and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N.
"It's pretty loud," Feller, 20, acknowledged.
Under the track's fan entrance, near First Avenue S and First Street SE, our meter read 97 decibels. That's a little quieter than a blow dryer and a little louder than an MRI scan.
"I don't know how we're gonna do this today," Delta Construction Partners secretary Marcy Wainwright said as she struggled to answer phones around the corner just after 8 a.m. Wainwright's office is on Beach Drive NE. "It's loud," she said. "It's trying."
Workers were taking calls in more sheltered parts of the building and the office dog, a Lhasa apso named Rocco, had not been himself all morning, she said.
At Lucky Dill Deli on Central Avenue, the zoom was audible, hovering somewhere between the noise of a washing machine and that of an alarm clock positioned 2 feet from your head.
But it wasn't bothering Joe Peppard, 47, and his wife, Sheila, 43. "A cement truck just went by that was three times louder than that," Joe said. Both said they were excited when the sound woke them up. They live about 2 miles north of the track, on Bayshore Drive. They even considered pulling their children out of school Friday to watch.
Though the sound never seemed to reach the level of a screaming child (110 decibels) or a jackhammer (130 decibels), it was enough to get them energized.
"I like the smell of burned tire that goes with the noise," Sheila said.
But truly troublesome noise didn't seem to radiate too far. Outside the Vinoy Renaissance Resort, it registered about 84 decibels — a bit loud for the front of a luxury hotel, but still quieter than normal traffic noise. Noise levels at Tropicana Field, around 60 decibels, were barely louder than a sewing machine.
Claire Wiseman can be reached at email@example.com or (727)-893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.