Havre de Grace mayor addresses fireworks issue

Dougherty's statement attributes confusion to storm threat

  • Folks put on their rain ponchos and gather up the blankets and chairs to leave Tydings Park as rain begins to fall and an announcement is made that the fireworks display is canceled for the evening. After the storm didn't materialize, the fireworks were back on.
Folks put on their rain ponchos and gather up the blankets and… (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF,…)
July 05, 2011

Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty read the following statement during Tuesday night's Havre de Grace City Council meeting as an explanation of the events that led to confusion over whether Sunday night's fireworks display had been cancelled:

The finale for the Independence Day Activities were complicated by an intense storm cell moving toward the City in the same time frame as the fireworks display was about to begin. Harford County Division of Emergency Operations had been notified by the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia of this small weather cell that was capable of producing damaging winds and dangerous lightning. The Harford County Operations Center then notified [Havre de Grace] Police Chief [Teresa] Walter of this weather event.

Upon being notified of this imminent storm, the decision was quickly made to suspend the beginning of the fireworks display and alert the thousands of carnival attendees to seek some type of safe shelter from the extreme weather.

"Crowds of people huddling under the large trees that are in our parks and line our streets are not safe places to gather prior to a lightning storm," Chief Teresa Walter said.

Police and other Public Safety personnel began notifying the carnival goers in person and through public address systems of the impending storm. Many attendees had little or no choice but to make their way to the safety of their vehicles. At some point well into the notification process, the message being broadcast to the public was that the fireworks and related activities had been cancelled as opposed to being officially suspended until the weather was no longer a threat.

The small storm cell dissipated as quickly as it formed and no longer posed any threats to persons in attendance at the events.

At approximately 9:30 p.m. the fireworks show did take place which did cause some frustration to a number of persons who left the carnival grounds and Tydings Park thinking the celebration had been cancelled due to bad weather. Some traffic congestion did result from persons who chose to watch the fireworks display from their vehicles before leaving the City.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty began to look into the incident Sunday night after numerous meetings and interviews and has determined, "urgent mass communications on this scale is not an exact science and some well-intentioned individuals had broadcast a bit more severe message than was meant or was necessary".

Council President Bill Martin reiterated: "The safety of the public and our employees is paramount in all decisions we make of this nature.

"It was extremely unfortunate to learn from Carolyn Narvell [of the Independence Day Committee] what a negative fiscal impact this year's events has had on the Independence Celebration Committee," the mayor said. "I would like to assure all our guests and residents that we will continue to improve and host quality festivals and events for all to enjoy and to showcase our fine City".

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