Impending rain may stop fireworks displays, hasn't dampened sales

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 2, 2013 

UPDATE: If Thursday's Phenix City fireworks need to be rescheduled, they will happen July 13 after the Dance in the Amp, according to event organizers.

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Rain and thunderstorms may replace colorful fireworks displays in the skies this Fourth of July.

Weather forecasters are predicting intermittent thunderstorms starting Wednesday and moving through Friday. The impending rain has caused some concerns that local fireworks displays may have to be postponed until the weekend.

WRBL TV3 Meteorologist Bob Jeswald said probabilities for rain on Thursday are high, and that citizens who plan on using their own fireworks may have a better chance of celebrating during the weekend.

"I can say now that the odds do not look good," Jeswald said. "If it was today, I'd say let the fireworks go on, but unfortunately with tomorrow and Thursday it looks like we'll have intermittent rain throughout."

Phenix City Parks and Recreation Department Coordinator Rebecca Harris said Tuesday that the city will move forward with plans to host a public concert and fireworks display at the Phenix City Amphitheater.

The event is hosted by The Russell County Convention and Tourism Bureau and Phenix City, and will include contemporary Christian music from The Moore Band. If weather permits, the concert will begin at 7:30 p.m., with fireworks beginning at 9:30 p.m.

The weather may concern city planners, but many fireworks stores say the predicted rain isn't hurting sales.

Jay Flowers, owner of Big Mama's Fireworks in Smiths Station, Ala., said his store expects to see about 2,000 customers a day on July 3 and July 4. Wanda Lamb, manager at Fireworks Outlet in Seale, Ala., said she has seen about 1,000 customers in the past two days, and expects many more as the holiday gets closer.

"I have not heard anybody express concerns about the rain," Lamb said. "All I know is they come in here and start buying."

Alabama fireworks sellers said Georgia consumers had also expressed few concerns about legal limitations on fireworks in Georgia, despite efforts from public safety officials to reduce the number of people transporting illegal fireworks across the river.

Flowers said some of his most popular models either rocket into the air or explode, making them illegal to use in Georgia.

"The most popular are the 500 or 200 gram multi-fire fireworks," Flowers said. "Bad Mother, Guilty Pleasures, 18 Car Pile Up, Pig Skin, Kaleidoscope — these are similar to the fireworks you used to see at Thunder on the Hooch."

Georgia residents who choose to use illegal fireworks could face hefty fines in addition to risking injury and damage to personal property. Possession and use of illegal fireworks in Georgia can result in a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail. Additionally, about 8,000 fireworks-related injuries are reported annually in Georgia.

State law allows Georgia citizens to buy sparklers or fountain fireworks. Wire or wood sparklers of 100 grams or less per item are allowed, as are other sparkling items which are non-explosive or non-aerial and contain 75 grams or less of chemical compound per tube. Georgians are also allowed to buy fireworks with multiple tubes that total 200 grams.

Party favors such as snake and paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers and snappers are allowed at up to 25 grams.

For personal displays, residents are encouraged to practice common sense safety procedures. A bucket of water should be kept nearby while fireworks are being set off, and each firework should be placed in the bucket of water before disposing it to reduce risk of fire. Only one firework should be set off at a time. No fireworks should be pointed at people, animals or establishments, and children should be supervised closely, even when making use of small poppers or sparklers.

If residents do plan to attempt a home fireworks display on Thursday, the weather may present only a small window of opportunity. Jeswald said at most local displays can hope for a two or three hour break.

"I'm banking on just a little break here and there," Jeswald said. "You'll need to be vigilant in watching every hour."

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