Kevin Douglass, chairman of the Winslow Family 4th of July celebration, speaks in front of a concession stand devoid of customers on a drizzly Tuesday. Douglass said the weather has kept attendance down during the day.
By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
A rainier than average early summer continues to take its toll on central Maine as the Fourth of July approaches, canceling or postponing pre-holiday festivities, rotting garden flowers and causing a minor collapse near a roadway that is threatened by erosion.
The question of the week — will this be over by Thursday? — has a so-so answer.
The Fourth of July will be drier, but hot and humid, with highs in the upper 80s, said Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.
Curtis said fog Wednesday is expected to move out of central Maine, although it will remain cloudy, and there might be intermittent showers and thunderstorms throughout the day.
Waterville got 5.19 inches in June, while Augusta got 6.81 inches, 3.25 inches more than the average of 3.56. A historical average for Waterville was not available, she said.
It was the seventh-wettest June in Portland's history, Curtis said. There was a total 7.32 inches of rain in June in Portland, nearly double the 30-year average of 3.79.
In Farmington, emergency officials were watching Whittier Road, which is about 30 feet from an eroding Sandy River bank.
Over the weekend, rain caused a one-foot section of an overhang along the bank to collapse, and emergency officials said the extent of the damage to the supporting earth can't be assessed because of high water levels.
Town officials wanted to move forward with a stabilization project on the site last summer, but federal agencies halted progress based on fears it would threaten the endangered Atlantic salmon, which spawn in the river.
The bank was first destabilized in August 2011 by a storm that caused a 50-foot-wide, 300-foot-long chunk of earth to fall into the river.
A project to prevent further erosion is tentatively scheduled for the end of July.
Flash flood warnings were in effect Monday night into Tuesday morning throughout central Maine, but a survey of problem areas revealed only minor damage, according to Tim Hardy, director of the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency, late Tuesday morning.
Hardy said there was a small amount of flooding on Maple Avenue and Cedar Street in Kingfield, a place he said has had recurring flooding issues.
As communities prepare for the Fourth of July, those banking on a good day are keeping their fingers crossed.
At Pyro City in Winslow, a fireworks store that opened about a year ago, Manager Vern Carlow said it was hard to say whether the weather was hurting sales, which he described as steady. For him, the forecast was bright.
"We anticipate a very sunny Fourth," he said. "We hope to be very busy here in the next 24 to 48 hours."
Also in Winslow, Fourth of July festivities organizer Kevin Douglass said the rain had caused some last-minute rescheduling for the six-day party, including an appearance by a camel that didn't like the wet weather.
"We don't want a 2,000-pound, stressed camel around the kids," Douglass said, noting that a series of Kids Day activities had been shifted from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Shortly after noon, Douglass stood in the nearly-empty green of Fort Halifax park, which afforded a good view of the rain-swollen Kennebec River. Douglass said that some activities had been moved from the edge of the river to higher ground to keep a safe distance between the children and the water.
An orange race car, originally brought in for kids to climb on, sat empty on the edge of a large puddle. Despite the setback, Douglass said he is upbeat about the festival's overall attendance, which have suffered during the days, but not the evenings, so far.
In Hallowell, Rock on the River was rained out Tuesday night, one of the scheduled events of the eight-day 2013 Whatever Family Festival in the Augusta area. The Robbie Coffin Combo had been scheduled to play on the riverfront boardwalk. Rock on the River has had bad luck this year with the weather.
"We never in our 15 years have had a season quite as dreary," organizers tweeted Tuesday nlght.
On Wednesday's Whatever festival agenda, the Veayo Twins are slated for Waterfront Park in Augusta.
Marion Hutchinson, of the Mount Blue Area Garden Club, said the frequent rain has made it difficult for club members to weed and prune their flower gardens at the World War I Memorial Arch and the courthouse, both in Farmington.
Her own garden, which she said contains more than 450 species of day lily, has been holding up well.
"I really think if we get a day of sunshine and heat, my garden is going to just be a mass of color," she said.
But the frequent rains have rotted some of her irises, and also encouraged a population boom among slugs.
She still faring better than some, she said, because her garden consists mostly of perennials, including hostas, Asiatic lilies, foxglove and mallow, which tend to do better without upkeep during cloudy spells.
Gardens that rely more heavily on high-maintenance annuals, Hutchinson said, are the ones that are suffering from the wet, in part because the gardeners can't access the plants.
"A lot of people are experiencing that right now," she said.
The weekend is expected to be dry and sunny.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
Danny Velez and Hope Stenson sip sodas while walking together under an umbrella during rain on Tuesday. "This rain doesn't bother us," Stenson said.
A race car is parked in a large puddle near Fort Halifax Park in Winslow on a wet Tuesday. The car is part of the Winslow Family 4th of July's "Total Truck Experience," where kids get a chance to see, up-close, municipal and commercial trucks.
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