When drought made Fourth of July fireworks a fire hazard, organizers in Chesterfield, Mo., decided to try again Labor Day weekend. Go figure: Now rain from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac has forced them to cancel again.
The same decision was made here in nearby Albion, where town officials are still hoping to have a fireworks show at the Central Noble Schools campus beginning at dusk Sunday – as long as their fireworks expert can get everything set up by 2 p.m.
What’s left of the once hurricane then tropical storm is expected to drop several inches of rain over parts of the Midwest this weekend, leaving residents preparing for a soggy holiday with mixed emotions. People in drought-stricken areas have been begging, pleading and praying for rain.
But did it have to ruin the end-of-summer party?
Whoever thought we’d have a hurricane challenge this event again? city of Chesterfield spokeswoman Libbey Tucker said of the ill-fated fireworks display. Somebody joked that next time it will be snow that we’ll have to cancel for.
What’s left of Isaac has been plodding north into states that badly need moisture. The worst drought in decades stretches from Ohio west to California. Isaac will move straight through some of the hardest-hit states: Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Forecasts are varied on how much rain will fall across northeast Indiana, which is why officials are taking a wait-and-see approach in Albion.
If it’s pouring rain Sunday morning, town officials will cancel the show. If hard rain starts to fall later, after the fireworks have been set up, officials will wait to see whether the weather clears by dusk.
If there’s a little bit of a drizzle the show will go on, said the town manager, Beth Shellman.
Across the Midwest, emergency agencies, city and county leaders and utility crews have been preparing for the deluge. In Indianapolis, a line of about 100 cars snaked from a Department of Public Works lot where free sandbags were being distributed Friday.
Residents could pick up bags filled with 30 to 50 pounds of sand, and DPW supervisor Stephen Brown estimated more than 180 people had done so by noon.
Jenny Bland, 50, of Indianapolis, waited in line more than 90 minutes so she could pick up bags for her family and elderly neighbors.
People are taking this very seriously, Bland said.
Officials in northeast Indiana, however, are not expecting any river flooding.
All of the rivers in the region are at summer depth, which is very low. That gives them lots of room to accept heavy rains, especially if those rains are spread out over several days.
The Maumee River, for example, was at 1 foot Friday afternoon. Flood stage is 17 feet. The St. Marys River is at 1 foot, the St. Joseph is at 1.6 feet. Flood stage on the St. Marys is 14 feet; the St. Joseph’s flood stage is 12 feet.
There could, however, be street flooding, or flooding in low-lying areas that simply take a long time to drain, and officials urge motorists to be cautious when driving and never attempt to drive through water across a road.
The city will be monitoring conditions all weekend, Fort Wayne spokesman John Perlich said. At this time, we do not anticipate problems, but we will monitor rain and river gauges throughout the city.
The National Weather Service, which monitors river depths in the region, is not even offering forecasts for most rivers. For the Maumee, which is always forecast, officials expect it to reach 2 feet on Monday.
While flooding may not be a major concern, the rain was expected to wash out the usually festive weekend, with some events canceled and others moved inside.
The weather forecast is putting a damper on tourism. Oleg Shneper, manager of the Extended Stay America hotel near Kings Island amusement park in suburban Cincinnati, received several cancellations because of the weather.
People have called to say they can’t get here because the rain is keeping them from getting out of airports, he said.
About 120 of the 400 reservations for campsites at Patoka Lake in southern Indiana have been canceled, said Nick Werner, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
And in Albion, if Sunday rain cancels the rescheduled fireworks originally canceled because of a drought, there’s no need to worry about the unused fireworks.
If there is a cancellation, they’ll be boxed up and used for an extended show on the Fourth of July next year.
If nothing else, we’ll keep everything and shoot them off next year, Shellman said, adding that an ice cream social at Asbury United Methodist Church next to the fireworks site will go on as planned, rain or shine.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.