Local fireworks stands expect business to take off like a Roman candle this Fourth of July because of road and bridge closures elsewhere caused by Missouri River flooding.
Pat Egan, president of Crazy Cracker Fireworks, said he plans to do more business because of the high water. He supplies fireworks to about 100 stands in Nebraska and South Dakota.
Every year in the weeks before the Fourth, many Nebraskans head for Rock Port, Mo., a town renowned as the spot to find low prices and buy all the fireworks you can’t get in neighboring states.
Egan said it's unfortunate that floodwaters will prevent some people from going to Rock Port for their fireworks because he has friends there in the fireworks business, and they are having a tough time.
So is Egan.
"Getting our fireworks the last week or so has been difficult because of all of the water," he said. "Some of our things (fireworks) have been routed through Des Moines to get to Lincoln."
Record flood levels on the Missouri River have closed big stretches of Interstate 29. Iowa 2 from the interstate to Nebraska City also is closed, and drivers can't use bridges to Missouri at Brownville and Rulo.
Egan said local customers shouldn't be disappointed with the fireworks selection here.
"We can sell everything Missouri has to offer ... except stick (bottle) rockets," he said.
Right now, fireworks sales should be popping in Rock Port, but business is pretty slow because of road closures, said Brice Ball, a salesman with Liberty Fireworks at the Rock Port interchange on I-29.
The Missouri River floodwaters are still a few miles from the interchange, but people have been staying away, he said, and he doesn't expect business to pick up before the Fourth.
"It'll be drastically less. Sales will be drastically less," Ball said.
The only bright side: Regulars who have been coming there for years still are finding ways to get to Rock Port to buy fireworks.
"People that want to come down, they are coming down," Ball said. "We're not going to get that through-interstate traffic because the interstate is closed, obviously."
But those who call can get directions.
"They can find their way on highways over in Iowa and Nebraska," Ball said.
Fireworks sales really slowed after access to Missouri on U.S. 136 was shut down at Brownville, Ball said. The closing of U.S. 159 at Rulo didn't help either.
The flooding also is hurting restaurants, truck stops and other businesses at the I-29 interchange at Rock Port.
"Any business at the Rock Port exit is going to be affected -- not just fireworks," Ball said.
People who have made the trip to Missouri to buy fireworks each year sometimes run into checkpoints set up by the Nebraska State Patrol when they cross the Missouri River into Nebraska, because while it's legal to buy fireworks in Rock Port, it’s unlawful to bring them into Nebraska.
The patrol has not yet decided whether it will have checkpoints this year in light of the flooding, spokeswoman Deb Collins said.
The patrol is discussing the issue with the Nebraska Fire Marshal's Office, and an announcement will be made early next week, she said.
Tents are going up already in Waverly, Hickman and other cities and towns outside of Lincoln, where fireworks can be sold beginning Saturday.
Lincoln allows fireworks to be sold only on July 3 and July 4.