‘Ferocious’ Storm Cancels Whitefish’s Annual Fourth of July Fireworks Show

High winds and rain caused waves to swamp the barge, waterlogging the explosives and prompting the show’s cancellation

By Maggie Dresser
Crowds watch fireworks over Whitefish Lake on July 4, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

After a Fourth of July storm destroyed $20,000 worth of fireworks that were scheduled to ignite on Tuesday night at Whitefish City Beach during its annual show, officials announced today the fireworks display will not be rescheduled.

Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Gartland said just before the show was set to begin high winds caused 4-foot waves on Whitefish Lake, swamping the barge that contained the explosives.

“Everything was waterlogged,” Gartland said. “Everything was ruined. We were prepared for rain, but the front moved through very quickly. It was pretty ferocious.”

Gartland said rain, high winds and lightning strikes rolled into Whitefish Lake at about 8:45 p.m. By 10 p.m., the wind sent waves crashing over the fireworks barge and nearly capsized the crew’s launch boat, waterlogging the fireworks cannon.

“They almost lost the boat,” Gartland said.

Officials chose to cancel the event 30 minutes before the scheduled 10:30 p.m. show.

Soon after that decision, chamber officials called local law enforcement and the Whitefish Fire Department, who announced the news on loudspeakers at City Beach and intercepted vehicles who were driving to the show. Gartland said they also wrote a Facebook post on the chamber’s page announcing the cancellation.

“It was not a perfect situation, but we did what we could,” Gartland said.

Gartland estimates there were a couple thousand “very hearty souls” waiting for the show.

“They sat through some rain and wind, and it was still a good crowd,” Gartland said. “A lot of folks were looking forward to it. We’re not able to reschedule the show – there are too many logistics around crowd control and the actual fireworks were spoiled.”

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