Mother Nature dampens plans for Thunder

Larry Thomas
Larry Thomas
Wayne Hettinger
Wayne Hettinger

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Just about everywhere you look in Louisville, you can see the preparations for the Kentucky Derby, and its kickoff, Thunder Over Louisville. Many are keeping their fingers crossed that Mother Nature will have some mercy, since the forecast isn't looking so favorable.

Thunder is the night when Louisville lights up and hundreds of thousands flock to the waterfront on both sides of the river.

"We've been saying all along we've been hoping for sunshine and warm weather so the grass will grow back from the flood," said Ashley Smith of the Waterfront Development Corporation.

But with rain and temperatures in the 50's, Mother Nature is putting a damper on just about everyone's plans.

"The Ohio River is up about four feet," said Smith.

Louisville's Waterfront Park is 85 acres. Because of the rain and flooding, at least two of the acres are a "no go" for thunder visitors.

On the other side of the river in Jeffersonville, city spokesperson Larry Thomas said the forecast gets wore each time he looks at it.

"With the river up, there is a real good chance we are gonna lose a little bit of our riverbank in terms of seating capacity and flow of people," said Thomas. "Right down below us, there is sidewalk that is 6 to 8 feet wide if the river is around 19 feet or 18.5 on Saturday, that is probably going to be underwater."

With the clock ticking, just like any producer would tell you, the man behind Thunder says the show must go on.

Thunder producer Wayne Hettinger isn't worried about whether it's gloomy or sunny. His attention has been on the federal government. Just days ago, a possible shutdown would have affected the air time in the show.

"It would have been drastic for our air show," said Hettinger. "We would have lost 3/4 of our planes that are due in."

With 22 years of experience, Hettinger promises a bigger and better show.

"We've got 105 aircraft that will be coming down the river and we've got 58 tons of fireworks we're gonna turn them loose and new colors and equipment that is giving a different look to the fireworks," said Hettinger.

Waterfront Development says they'll be sending out crews to clean up the Louisville waterfront over the next few days and power washing a lot of the areas. Jeffersonville city leaders have canceled the idea of having a concert at Riverstage during Thunder because of the flood levels. They are hoping to move the concert elsewhere.

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