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Nebraska State Fair flooding

Flooding rains Monday morning left behind a lake at the state fairgrounds in Grand Island.

An already saturated state fairgrounds in Grand Island sustained what farmers like to call a gully washer Monday morning.

The early morning storm, which dropped 1.43 inches of rain at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport, flooded areas of Fonner Park, including the paved strip running between livestock areas and vendors for virtually the length of the fairgrounds.

Lori Cox, executive director of the Nebraska State Fair, said that water was receding by 11 a.m. as visitors on Older Nebraskans Day were making their way inside an arena for a morning concert featuring The Drifters.

By afternoon, the sun emerged to the delight of fairgoers, fair officials and exhibitors.

Strong storms miss Lincoln, but up to an inch of rain possible by end of day

Photos from early Monday morning showed a vendor using a kayak to navigate the area that on a normal day would have marching bands and tractor-pulled trams shuttling fairgoers.

Cox said fair officials would make accommodations as needed, but stressed that events and vendors were up and running.

However, Monday's rain was likely the final straw for the fair's grass parking lots, which had already been shut down because of prolonged wet weather.

Cox said anyone headed to the fair through its final day on Labor Day should plan to use free shuttles set up to bring visitors onto the fairgrounds from parking areas throughout Grand Island.

Shuttles will run from Walmart on South Locust Street and parking lots at the former Shopko, Conestoga Mall, Sam’s Club and Central Community College on U.S. 281.

Parking in the private Bosselman parking lot off Locust Street at Fonner Park will be available for $10 per vehicle as spots are available.

The free shuttles run from one hour before gates are scheduled to open through midnight, allowing concertgoers time to get back to their vehicles. Early morning visitors headed onto the fairgrounds for cattle shows or other events are asked to park at the Walmart on South Locust Street, where special shuttles are set up.

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Fair officials are encouraging other guests to consider using the parking areas on U.S. 281, because the Walmart on South Locust Street typically fills up quickly.

Cox, who is in her second year on the job, said fair officials planned in advance for what they might do in the event of prolonged wet weather.

The only "hiccup" in those plans, she said, has been finding enough drivers for the shuttles. "I've never been a bus wrangler before," Cox said, describing almost constant efforts to make sure buses are running where needed.

Attendance figures from the opening weekend aren't yet available, but Cox said as many as 22,000 tickets were scanned Saturday and "double that" Sunday.

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She estimated that 80% of those visitors used the shuttles to reach the fairgrounds. Anyone using the shuttles is being given a free ticket to return to the fair on midweek dates in 2020.

Monday's rainfall pushed the official August total at the Grand Island airport to 11.5 inches, making it the second-wettest month in the city's history behind only June 1967.

In a normal August, rainfall totals 3.1 inches.

Forecasters say there is a slight chance of rain in Grand Island on Tuesday afternoon and again Friday morning.

Otherwise, conditions look good, with clear skies, below-average temperatures and low humidity.

Photos: The 150th Nebraska State Fair

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