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City Releases Statement on Sunday's Fireworks

Mayor Dougherty :”urgent mass communications on this scale is not an exact science..."

The following statement from the City of Havre de Grace was issued Tuesday evening:

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The finale for the Independence Day Activities [was] 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 Police Chief 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,” said Chief Teresa Walter.

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 was form and no longer posed any threats to persons in attendance at the events.

At approximately 9:30 PM 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 (and our City Staff) make of this nature.["]

“It was extremely unfortunate to learn from Carolyn Narvell what a negative fiscal impact this year’s events has had on the Independence Celebration Committee”, said the Mayor. “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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For Patch's report on Sunday's fireworks confusion, click .

Fred Cullum July 08, 2011 at 03:29 AM
Actually you are somewhat correct, the current budget has an allocation of $3,500.00 to the Committee and then there is the $30- $50,000.00 (we do not have the numbers compiled yet) that was spent in Police and DPW services.
RightWay2012 July 08, 2011 at 05:35 AM
The fireworks and festivities were fantastic in Kansas. Sorry to hear of the unfortunate circumstances back in my home town. I'm not privy to the specifics, but I would suggest that the conversation would be far different had authorities done nothing and people were hurt. Serving the public is a tough responsibility at any level of office. Those that make these tough decisions have families just like you, and they make the best decision possible with the information at hand to ensure the public safety. Perhaps a review of communications procedures is warranted. Lambasting those that are working hard to serve you does not solve any problems. Remember, Independence Day is a celebration of our freedoms that yes, include the freedom to complain about our government. But we are the government in a free society, and those in authority are part of "we" within our community. So give them a break and wish your fellow American a very happy Independence Day.
WD July 08, 2011 at 11:21 AM
There was an evacuation that night? Wow! I must have been dreaming Sunday night and not in town to watch the fireworks and seeing police directing traffic with no sense of urgency, hundreds of people milling around, walking in the streets and on the sidewalks, sitting in lawn chairs in open spaces and parking lots, and even a few sitting on roofs. If the city ordered an evacuation of the town to protect the public, it was a miserable failure.
WD July 08, 2011 at 11:33 AM
Once again, the police department and the 4th of July Committee never cancelled the fireworks. The message they put out was the fireworks were being delayed due to weather. However, in the process of communicating this "delay" message it was elevated to "cancel" by some well intentioned law enforcement personnel. Sunday night's confusion was caused by human error and nothing more. I am pretty confident about this unless Carolyn Narvell is lying to all of us which is just not the case.
WD July 08, 2011 at 11:48 AM
The cause of Sunday nights confusion was a glitch in communication which to me is completely understandable given the number of law enforcement personnel, volunteers and others across the town that were involved in the carnival and fireworks. Carolyn Narvell's posts here on the Patch provide the best explanation of what really happened on Sunday night.

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