Fourth of July without a bang: Rain-soaked campers happy it's not 90 degrees

Fourth of July without a bang: Rain-soaked campers happy it's not 90 degrees

July 5th, 2013 by Alex Green in Local Regional News

Korey Hunt, left, and Miranda Barnes shop for fireworks at the Tennessee Alabama Fireworks Nickajack store in Jasper, Tenn., on Thursday. Patrons kept the store busy despite the rainy weather that much of the Chattanooga region experienced yesterday.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

POLL: If possible, will you attend a fireworks display this weekend?

LOOKING AHEAD

Mother Nature is not going to let up any time soon. WRCB-TV3 forecasters said area residents should expect showers popping up through today, with a slight chance of thunderstorms. Rainfall chances decrease Saturday morning, but pick back up Saturday afternoon into Sunday.

FIREWORKS

Rain forced organizers to postpone several area Fourth of July fireworks shows. Weather permitting, here are the events planned Saturday:

• Signal Mountain

• Lakesite

• Athens

• Dunlap Main Street

• Jasper

• South Pittsburg

• Lake Winnie to Saturday and Sunday at 10 p.m.

FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS

Residents who live in flood-prone areas are cautioned to look for rising waters resulting from this week's rain and the continued rain forecast for the rest of the week. Catoosa County officials said water on U.S. Highway 41 already was causing problems.

Even without a bang, the Fourth of July went on Thursday despite ugly weather and unusually low temperatures.

At Hixson's Chester Frost Park, campers said the rain might be a nuisance, but it was not going to stop a good time.

"What's the fun of camping when it's all nice and sunny?" said East Ridge resident Josh Merrit, who has been camping at Chester Frost alongside his wife, Monica, for the past month.

The Merritts have never camped during the Fourth of July, and despite having little access to weather forecasts from their lakeside tent, they decided last week to stick it out and spend this year's Independence Day at the park. For the newlywed couple, camping is a welcome retreat from the grind.

"It's an escape," Monica said.

The prospect of more rain through next week doesn't have the Merritts' spirits down.

"We decided to stay through," Monica added, even though "we're going to be in a mudhole by then." Husband Josh noted that the couple might even stay for the remainder of the summer.

A Los Angeles man nicknamed "Nacho" said he is not crazy about the wet weather, but he is sticking it out for his wife who decided the two should camp when they came to Chattanooga for his work.

"We were living in a motel," he said Thursday. "Now we're camping." He recounted the past week's weather simply: "rain, rain, rain, rain."

Other visitors to Chester Frost Park on the holiday had a similar attitude toward what Mother Nature had served up.

Acheson Graham, an 8-year-old Bright School student, was spending his second straight week at the campground and his fourth since summer began.

Graham guessed he has used more than 1,000 crickets while fishing so far, and father Phillip put the crew's catch total somewhere over 100.

Phillip Graham said the family didn't have specific plans for coming out to the park, rather they were camping "just to have fun and catch fish."

He said the rain has not been a significant interference to their plans. On Thursday, the Grahams teamed up with relatives and hosted a July Fourth dinner near the camp's main pavilion.

Some among the family have been frequenting Chester Frost for 50 years and find the low temperatures a relief from scorching heat, much like last year's 90-degree highs.

"This has been a nice one," said Jamie Sharpe, a longtime Hixson resident. "There's just a sprinkle every now and then ... there are a lot of advantages this year over last year."

Meanwhile noncampers hit up Chattanooga's hot spots to get in Fourth festivities without getting out into the spotty downpour.

George Lewallen fielded a full facility and persistent calls at Tremont Tavern on Thursday, just off Hixson Pike north of Veteran's Bridge.

"We were [very] busy for lunch," he said Thursday evening. "And literally every 15 minutes the phone is ringing." He said Tremont is known in the area as a place that stays open for nearly every holiday and "every natural disaster."

"People want to go in and drink somewhere. They want to go eat somewhere, and they know they can do that here," Lewallen said. He estimated that Tremont fielded more business this Independence Day than a year ago. He also said Thursday was "one of the busiest lunches ever" at the tavern.

Across town at East Ridge's TNT Fireworks on McBrien Road, manager Cooper Bolton said his store was swamped on the holiday most associated with fireworks. Thursday evening he said he knew what Chattanooga residents did after the rain forced event cancellations across the region.

"They ended up buying a lot of fireworks," he said. Like Lewallen, Cooper said his business was beating last year's sales numbers. But he said he didn't think the increase was totally because of city firework show cancellations.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfree press or 423-757-6731.