PAWTUCKET — With the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian expected to lash the Ocean State with rain and wind on Friday night and Saturday morning, Pawtucket Arts Festival officials met Wednesday to discuss how the weather may impact this weekend’s events, including Downtown Live and the Rhode Island Chinese Dragon Boat Races and Taiwan Day Festival.
From that meeting, Arts Festival Director Anthony Ambrosino said, “We’re full speed ahead.”
“The weather has been bouncing around so much. We did consider our options, the best course of action is to continue on with the plan,” Ambrosino said on Wednesday afternoon. “If something changes and a game-time decision is made with the races, we’ll consider that.”
The Weather Channel is forecasting rain in Pawtucket on Friday night – 1 to 2 inches is expected – with winds up to 35 miles per hour. Saturday morning is forecast to be similar, with rainfall near a quarter of an inch and winds to 35 miles per hour before skies clear in the afternoon.
Friday night’s dragon boat celebration is from 6 to 8 p.m. at Festival Pier and features music, an illuminated dragon boat parade, and the “awakening of the dragon” ceremony.
“We have a giant tent,” Ambrosino said regarding the threat of rain on Friday night. “There’s no races, there will be plenty of food, camaraderie. We want to celebrate 20 years and Friday night will be a good time.”
Saturday from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. includes Chinese dragon boat races, Taiwanese cultural events, interactive games and activities, river cruises on the Explorer riverboat, food trucks, vendors, and a dumpling-eating contest. A stone’s-throw away from Festival Pier will be the inaugural Downtown Live celebration, featuring classic cars, food, and three stages of music in the city’s downtown.
Neither should be significantly affected by the storm, as Downtown Live starts at noon on Saturday and “by that point, the weather system should have passed,” Ambrosino said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kim Buttrick said Hurricane Dorian will be about 140 miles southeast of Nantucket late Friday into Saturday. Ahead of the storm, southern New England could see building seas and rough surf at the south coast, while stronger winds are projected to impact Cape Cod and the islands.
“There will also be rain bands, that’s hard to pinpoint,” Buttrick said. “It seems like the best likelihood is for heavy rain across the Cape and the islands and southern Rhode Island. The time frame for all of this would be Friday night into Saturday morning.”
Describing Dorian as a “different beast with a different history” than other hurricanes, Buttrick said “where the heaviest rainfall occurs maybe could be further off-shore, but I’d still think southern Rhode Island and the Cape and islands could certainly get some heavy downpours from the storm as it passes.”
“Right now, we don’t have any headlines, but for southern New England late Friday into early Saturday, the time frame looks probable for impacts,” Buttrick said. “Anyone with boating interests, there will be building seas off-shore. We’re going into a weekend where the weather looks nice come Sunday. People should be mindful if they’re going into the surf.”
The Pawtucket Arts Festival is contending with more than rain and wind potentially affecting plans this weekend. Festival officials are also mindful of another one of Mother Nature’s nuisances – the mosquito.
With their neighbors in Central Falls rescheduling outdoor events last weekend due to concerns about mosquito-borne illnesses, officials in Pawtucket have been urging residents in the city to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
“We’ve been talking about that, watching what the Department of Health and the city has for recommendations,” Ambrosino said. “As far as the downtown concert goes, it’s ending around (dusk) and we’re in the city on Main Street, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
What Ambrosino is focusing on when it comes to precautions from mosquito-borne illnesses, though, is next weekend’s Slater Park Fall Festival. He said officials are “planning a lot of entertainment to not be around (dusk).”
“We’ll continue watching next weekend, we have some options in play should the situation change,” he said.
City residents have been asked to schedule their day in order to avoid being outside at dawn and dusk whenever possible. No human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis have been reported in Rhode Island and there’s been no further evidence of the mosquitoes carrying the disease in Central Falls since the positive test in mid-August.
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette