Thunder may be mixed in holiday’s fireworks; emergency workers get ready for crowds, heat

Mother Nature may add her own booms to this afternoon and tonight’s musical performances and a display of fireworks downtown at 9:30 p.m., but stormy conditions are hit and miss and not anticipated to dampen the patriotism of the performers on stage or patrons out to celebrate Independence Day.

Additionally, city fire, emergency medical service and police personnel will be on the scene, prepared to respond to emergencies, such as crowd control and to give warning of any impending thunderstorms or respond to river and boat rescue scenarios.

The 18th annual “Set the Night to Music and Fireworks Extravaganza” goes on rain or shine, but throughout the day the festivities downtown in parking lot of the Hampton Inn and William Street and throughout the Susquehanna Valley may be accompanied by showers and thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service forecast in State College.

Unfortunately, there’s a 30- to 40-percent chance of a late afternoon and early evening showers and thunderstorms rolling through the Susquehanna Valley, according to Elyse Colbert, a meteorologist with the service.

“I would recommend a back-up plan where one might not get wet watching fireworks,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect a complete washout and where they (thunderstorms) pop up is hard to pinpoint.”

The almost daily occurrence of rain this month has been due to an area of high pressure over the Atlantic Ocean blocking the air flow from the Gulf of Mexico, Colbert said. Rainfall for the month has been 1.8 inches above average as of midnight Wednesday, according to readings taken at the Williamsport Regional Airport. For the month, rainfall is .44 inches, with normal amounts, .26 inches, Colbert said.

A muggy Friday and weekend is ahead, with high temperatures reaching in the mid-80s and chances for thunderstorms, mostly in the late afternoon.

Throughout the day today, look for peaks of sun and humid conditions, with highs reaching into the mid-80s, conditions that can be countered by ample number of vendors providing refreshments and emergency medical personnel on scene to assist with heat-related illness.

“All public safety services will have a presence, according to fire Deputy Chief David Dymeck. Medical personnel will be located on the southwestern side of Wegmans’ lot along Via Bella. Heat and heat exhaustion and heat stroke are medical conditions that can take place in extreme conditions, especially on asphalt and in crowded conditions when temperatures may be higher than what they are at the Williamsport Regional Airport. Dymeck said the department also will monitor ahead for approaching lightning and be prepared for any river rescue.

“If we start to see thunderstorms moving in we will put announcements out and ask people to move to cover,” he said. That will be done by the master of ceremonies on stage and over the radio channels, he added.

“We’re going to give ample warning and tell people to take shelter, leave the area and not stand in open or under trees,” he said. “Metal chairs would be dangerous.”

The best place to go before the storm arrives would be a vehicle, but for those without access, the department will give plenty of warning to get into a bus or shelter.

Dymeck is prepared not only for those on dry land, but for those viewing the fireworks in boats on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

“I’m concerned about the river because of the high speed which it’s traveling right now,” he said, expecting the crest to be today at 10 feet. Floodstage is 20 feet, but when the river gets to 10 feet and above and is flowing as it is, it can be dangerous for boaters whose engines fail or anchors break free -could be swept downstream toward the dam at Hepburn Street.

The department remains in contact with officials from the state Fish and Boat Commission on river conditions, he said.

“Our concern is for people in the vicinity of the river, too,” he said. The water is moving swiftly and there is a lot of debris in the river, much of it arriving from north and west, such as Tioga, Bradford and Clinton counties, he said.

River Valley Transit general manager William E. Nichols Jr. recommends those attending park their cars nearby and ride the bus to and from the event. Pickups begin at 6 p.m. at Mulberry and Third streets, Market and Edwin streets, Washington Boulevard and Mulberry Street, Mulberry and Ross streets, Mulberry Street and Little League Boulevard, Fifth Street parking lot across from Helmrich’s Seafood, at Hepburn Plaza and at Hepburn and Fourth streets. The return buses will be in front of the Third Street parking garage.

The Market Street bridge will be closed to traffic from about 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. The Susquehanna Riverwalk will be closed from 7:30 a.m. through 7:30 a.m. Friday from Commerce Park Drive to Maynard Street.

A slate of bands will perform from 3 p.m. until after the 9:30 fireworks show. The fireworks will be set off over the Market Street bridge and will be synchronized with music played on local Backyard Broadcasting radio stations, including WILQ, 105.1; WZXR, 99.3; and WBZD, 93.3. Food and craft vendors will be available through the event.

Other events today include:

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church along Market Street also plans to host an Independence Day celebration beginning at 6 p.m. with food, followed by a program of patriotic music by organist Jungwha Kim and Karen Boone at 7:30 p.m.

The Tiadaghton Elm Ceremony will be at 10 a.m. at the Jersey Shore Town Meeting stage. The Jersey Shore Home Town Hero Program will be at the stage at 6 p.m. The band Country Express will play from 6 to 10 p.m.

Independence Day celebration in Mansfield includes music and vendors starting at noon, a parade at 4 p.m. and fireworks at dusk.

Fireworks will be set off at 10:15 p.m. at the Mifflinburg town park.

The Millville Fire Co. Independence Day parade moves at 10:30 a.m. and takes the theme, “200th anniversary of Columbia County.” The band Joe Bonson & Coffee Run performs at 7 p.m. at the Millville carnival. A low-level fireworks display will start at 10 p.m. at the Little League field.

Fireworks at 10 p.m. at the New Berlin Commons along Penns Creek

Fireworks after dusk at Tioga Hammond Lake.

Fireworks at 9:15 p.m. in the Watsontown park.