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Storms in forecast for Fourth

Fireworks in Brainerd for last year's Fourth of July celebration. A nearly day-long 60 percent chance of rain, coupled with possible thunderstorms, might derail 2018 festivities. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch file photo

When it comes to Fourth of July celebrations this year, it's boom or bust for the Brainerd lakes area.

Throughout Wednesday, July 4, scores of revelers in Crosby, Brainerd and Pequot Lakes will take part in Independence Day festivities—from pancake breakfasts at sunup, parades and park extravaganzas in the afternoon, until fireworks light up the dusk sky.

However, it looks like Mother Nature has planned some explosive shows of its own—60 percent chance of rain from pre-dawn to later in the evening, when possibilities of precipitation wind down to about 30 percent in time for fireworks. In addition, said Carol Christenson, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Duluth, there's a good chance this rain won't come as a light drizzle or spotty showers.

It may be a downpour to the tune of a half-inch to 1-inch range, she noted, accompanied by storm clouds and lightning.

That's the bad news. The good news, Christenson said, is these storms are unlikely to ruin fireworks at 10-10:30 p.m., though she advised residents in the Brainerd lakes area to pack raincoats and umbrellas along with the lawn chairs for parades earlier in the day.

In the meantime, local cities—and their plans—are forging on ahead despite the looming threat of inclement weather.

"We actually don't have a plan B," said Katie Wassermann, interim director of the Pequot Lakes Chamber of Commerce. As of late Tuesday afternoon, organizers opted to move the Pequot parade a half-hour earlier in the day to 11:30 a.m., along with the kids' parade to 10 a.m.

"Safety is our first priority," Wassermann said. "Our thought is—if there's ever a thunderstorm warning—we'll call off the parade ... or push it out later in the day. Other than that, we're going to take the chance and hopefully the weather will cooperate with us."

Holly Holm, executive director of Brainerd Community Action, echoed Wassermann's statements in terms of Brainerd's commitment to putting on a fun Fourth of July.

"We are going to continue with plan A for as long as we possibly can," Holm said. "The only reason anything would get canceled is if it gets too dangerous, and that would be a call made by the fire and police departments. Rain isn't going to stop us from doing any of this. It's a lightning call and that's pretty much it."

Wassermann added Independence Day participants should go out with a spirit of optimism, if a little tempered with realistic expectations.

"Bring your raincoat, bring your umbrella," she said. "Just get ready for a good time if the weather holds out for us."

Some advice

During the phone interview, Christenson passed along a few pointers to keep in mind while one's taking part in Independence Day festivities.

• Lay off the booze: "I know it may be hard for some of us to do, but limit alcohol intake because alcohol actually does not help your body in this kind of heat," said Christenson, who noted cracking a couple cold ones can exacerbate issues like dehydration and heat exhaustion in these hot, humid conditions. "(Drink) lots of water, lemonade, ice tea—that kind of stuff."

• Stay cool as a cucumber: Steamy weather conditions during July Fourth might get to people in a hot minute, leading to a whole range of symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, dehydration and even heat stroke. "Help them find a cool spot," Christenson said. "Maybe get them a damp wash rag, let them cool down and get them some water."

• When thunder roars, go indoors: Wednesday's unique mixture of loud, booming light shows—both of the man-made gunpowder variety, as well as thunderstorms—means it's one of the rare times of year when a storm cell might be able to sneak up on area residents. In that case, Christenson said, "Somebody should be in charge of watching the weather—have a weather app open on their phone, keep track of any storms coming in, maybe find a quiet area to keep a watch for storms. If you hear thunder, it means you can be struck by lightning."

• A no Brainer(d): "Heed any warnings that the National Weather Service issues," Christenson said, conceding while this may seem self-explanatory, it's proven worth repeating in the past.

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