While the threat of a stray summer thunderstorm meandering through 4th of July festivities is certainly no surprise in East Tennessee, meteorologists say that this Independence Day could be an outright frog-strangler.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for Scott County and the entire surrounding area from 8 p.m. Wednesday through 8 p.m. Friday. During that time frame, meteorologists say, widespread rain totals of three to five inches are expected, with locally higher amounts wherever thunderstorm "banding" sets up.
The NWS's forecast for Oneida is for an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms Wednesday, a 100 percent chance of heavy rain Wednesday night, a 100 percent chance of heavy rain Thursday and a 90 percent chance of heavy rain Thursday night.
"Showers and thunderstorms will become more numerous by tonight, with periods of heavy rainfall expected through Thursday and Friday," the NWS said in its flood watch early Wednesday morning.
The NWS says that the potential for widespread heavy rain will begin to decrease by late Friday. Still, substantial rain chances remain in the forecast through the weekend.
A busy holiday period is planned in Scott County, beginning with the annual Firemen's Fourth Festival in Huntsville Wednesday evening.
An antique car show is to kick off the festival at 5 p.m. Wednesday, with a firemen's competition and the start of live entertainment at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The festival continues Thursday with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m., parade at 11 a.m., soap box derby at 1 p.m. and fireworks at 10 p.m.
On Saturday, Rodney Atkins is slated to headline the Stars & Stripes Event at Trail's End Campground near Huntsville, while the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area has interpretive events planned.
Despite the ominous weather forecast, Bandy Creek Campground in the Big South Fork remained heavily booked for the holiday period, and all events are still a go. While some cities have opted to move their 4th of July celebrations to the weekend in an effort to avoid the heaviest rain, the Firemen's Fourth is still on its regular schedule.
"We're holding out hope that the weather will blow through (before time for Thursday's fireworks), even though it's not looking good," Huntsville fire chief Patrick Botts said Tuesday.
Botts was in contact with state officials on Tuesday about a possible rescheduling date for the fireworks show, should it become necessary.
"It's all up to the state," Botts said. "They tell us when we can have them and they tell us when we can't have them."
Meteorologists say that some computer weather models are shifting the axis of the heaviest rain further west with time, but indicate that the Cumberland Plateau is still in the bullseye for significant rainfall during the holiday period. In a forecast discussion published Wednesday morning, meteorologists at the NWS's Morristown field office noted a "growing concern for additional heavy rainfall" over the weekend.