Cape, Jackson authorities report a quiet Independence Day

Friday, July 6, 2012
Krista Carter of Jackson works the 3 Men and a Grill stand during the Jackson Parks and Recreation department's annual July 4th celebration Wednesday, July 4, in the Jackson City Park. (Adam Vogler)

Extreme temperatures and drought in Southeast Missouri apparently didn't hinder many July 4 celebrations or cause a high number of unsafe situations, but the heat wave isn't over yet.

Emergency responders in Cape Girardeau and Jackson say the holiday was fairly tame despite the potential for fireworks-related incidents and heat-related illnesses.

Cape Girardeau police officers working the streets and a large July Fourth event hosted by the USA Veterans group Wednesday at Arena Park dealt with a small number of incidents, said Cape Girardeau police spokesman Darin Hickey.

"Comparatively with other years it was actually very, very quiet," Hickey said. No injuries from fireworks were reported to police, and most residents ceased shooting them off around the city's set time of midnight Wednesday.

"It was a really good, safe Fourth of July," he said. "People seemed to get really conscious of their surroundings and stepped up."

Authorities urged the public to use caution when setting off fireworks in the weeks leading up to July 4 due to the high fire danger in the region caused by an ongoing dry spell.

Cape Girardeau fire chief Rick Ennis said the department received 28 calls for assistance from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday, which is higher than the normal 12 to 14 calls received daily, but that overall he thought the city fared well considering the heat and dry conditions.

"I know there was a lot of concern about the drought, and I had concerns, too," he said. "But really we didn't run any more fire calls than any other year on the Fourth."

Ten calls were directly related to use of fireworks, although none resulted in major incidents, Ennis said. The department responded to five grass fires and several Dumpster fires that were likely from fireworks, he said, but the fires were quickly contained or already out when crews arrived. Two other calls that were related to the holiday were medical calls, Ennis said. One spectator at the demolition derby at Arena Park was taken to the hospital to be treated for a noninjury illness.

Crews also responded to a crash at the intersection of East Rodney Drive and Independence Street around the time the fireworks display in the park ended, but no one was seriously injured.

Capt. Stephen Baugh of the Jackson Fire Department said the department did not receive any injury or fire calls related to fireworks use Wednesday. The call volume to the department was normal, he said.

Jackson fire crews did provide mutual aid to the Gordonville Volunteer Fire Protection District on Thursday afternoon in response to a small grass fire in the Saddlebrook Ridge Subdivision southwest of Jackson, but Baugh said crews put out the fire before it neared any homes.

Organizers of July Fourth events in Cape Girardeau and Jackson said crowd turnout was good despite hot weather.

Larry Cunningham, head organizer of Jackson's event at the city park that included mud volleyball and fireworks, estimated between 4,000 and 5,000 people attended throughout the day.

"It was great, and way beyond our expectations," he said.

The crowd did thin some at the hottest time of the day, he said, and the heat may have deterred some people, but in comparison with previous years the event was a huge success.

Rodger Brown of the USA Veterans group that organized July 4 celebrations in Arena Park said between 6,000 and 7,000 people attended the fireworks display and estimated a few thousand less were on hand throughout the day for other events.

"It was probably the heat, because that's a little less than years past, but I am sure we will do it again next year," he said.

Neither organizer said they were aware of any injuries or sickness from fireworks or heat during the events.

Even with the holiday over, danger from heat and chances of fire from dry conditions remains across much of the area. Thursday's National Weather Service-recorded high in Cape Girardeau reached 106, breaking the daily record of 101 degrees set in 1969.

The amount of rainfall is now at more than 14 inches below normal levels for the year, and extremely hot weather is forecast to continue through Saturday evening.

No relief from triple-digit highs will likely come until Sunday, when the high for Cape Girardeau is forecast at 95 degrees. An upper-level high-pressure system is expected to weaken and move west of the region Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Highs Monday and through the week are expected to be in the high 80s to lower 90s and chances for precipitation should increase, but as of Thursday afternoon the service still predicted "no drought-busting rain seen in the foreseeable future."

National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Shanklin said in a news release that this summer's heat wave is one of the worst in the region in the last century and that it is critical for people to heed safety precautions.

Heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in 350 fatalities each year, according to the National Weather Service, and on average claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.

An excessive heating warning is in effect until 7 p.m. Saturday. Area health agencies and the National Weather Service say safety precautions should include wearing lightweight and loosefitting clothing, drinking plenty of water, spending as much time as possible in an air-conditioned environment and rescheduling outdoor activities for early morning or evening.

No-burn orders will remain in effect until further notice for Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Mississippi, Scott and Stoddard counties and the cities of Advance, Bloomfield, Cape Girardeau, Chaffee, Charleston, Morley, Oran and Scott City. An open fire burn ban also remains in place in Missouri State Parks and at historic sites. Contained charcoal fires for cooking and use of gas and cook top stoves are allowed, however. In Illinois, there is also a no-burn order in Alexander County.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

Arena Park, Cape Girardeau, MO

Jackson City Park, Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

Comments
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: