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Independence Day celebrations begin wet and cloudy

The Twin Cities and much of the rest of Minnesota were in for a wet Fourth of July holiday, with morning drizzle for parade participants and later storms bringing possible hail and even the threat of a tornado in the southern part of the state.

The expected rain had already prompted organizers to cancel or postpone several fireworks events across the region. It also marred a parade in Eagan on Thursday morning that stretched along Yankee Doodle Road.

Ryan Dunleavy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, said revelers who will be outside in the evening should carefully check the websites of events that have not yet been canceled, as well as the weather forecast.

In addition to the risk of rain or lightning, low clouds could obscure the fireworks, he said. But whether there will be showers depends on how quickly the forecast storms move through the region.

By 11 a.m. Thursday, 0.5 inches of rain had already fallen in Chanhassen. Across the city, 2 to 3 inches of rain were expected during the day, with even more rain possible in the densest regions.

The next storm front, which will first develop in the southwest of the state and then move east, could be even more severe, Dunleavy said. “That could include an isolated tornado or large hail,” he added, and that threat extends as far as the Twin Cities.

In Eagan, both sides of the street were packed with crowds Thursday morning, many of whom had set up tents to shelter from the weather. By the end of the procession, the rain had gotten heavier and the streets were lined with wet tarps, ponchos and umbrellas.

Some were surprised the city didn’t cancel the event. Last year’s Fun Fest parade was cut short halfway through when a sudden torrential downpour sent crowds running and sent floats careening toward the end of the route, residents Diane Baker and Sue Lentz said.

“We love parades. We are a parade family,” Baker said. “This rain is not going to stop us.”

Both women hoped the rain wouldn’t affect tonight’s fireworks. “My husband couldn’t handle it,” Lentz said. “He woke up, said ‘no way,’ and jumped off.”