The middle of August is usually a time Western New Yorkers like to bask in the homestretch of summer, heading to the Erie County Fair or a weekend festival on a pleasant, sunny day.
On Saturday – not so much.
Rain, gray skies, cool temperatures and gusty winds put a damper on several events that were banking on far more seasonable conditions.
Strong breezes wiped out virtually all of Thunder on the Niagara’s hydroplane racing slate in North Tonawanda’s Gratwick-Riverside Park.
A light afternoon drizzle sent classic car owners packing at the Old Falls Street Cruise-In in Niagara Falls.
And it wasn’t the best day for the Scottish Festival at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village in Amherst or the “Picture Main Street Live” event in the heart of Williamsville.
A high of 70 was registered in Buffalo Saturday – the fourth straight day of un-August-like temperatures, according to Steven Welch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Buffalo.
The normal maximum temperature for the region between Aug. 6 and 17 is 79.
“We’ve had a stubborn upper-level low-pressure system that hasn’t wanted to move lately and it’s produced a lot more colder air than normal for this time of year,” said Welch, adding that a high of 70 was recorded Wednesday and Friday, while Thursday was even chillier at 66.
“This is definitely abnormally cold,” he said.
Late Saturday afternoon, winds of 25 mph were reported at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, with gusts reaching 36 mph – not exactly smooth-sailing conditions for boats set to cruise the Niagara River at speeds of up to 180 mph.
“Wind and weather was not our friend today,” said Scott Thompson, director of the Niagara Frontier Boat Racing Association, which partners with the American Power Boat Racing Association and the American Canadian Hydroplane Association to hold Thunder on the Niagara.
“Anything over a 20-mph wind will shut us down,” Thompson added.
Some heats in the flat-bottom and grand prix boat classes were held early Saturday. A daylong wind delay prevented the featured hydroplanes from taking the water for their races.
The free, two-day event is expected to continue today, with all of the heats of racing taking place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In Niagara Falls, more than 100 classic cars, including many Corvettes, lined the three blocks of Old Falls Street at 11 a.m. Saturday as Corvettes of Buffalo brought its 10th annual caravan to the Cataract City.
By 2:30 p.m., fewer than a dozen cars remained due to threatening skies. The event was scheduled to run until 8 p.m.
“Earlier it was fine,” said Albert McFadyen of Lockport, showing off his 1936 Plymouth Deluxe Touring Sedan.
A little rain didn’t faze him.
“The people that own the cruisers are notoriously skittish about the rain, but the car won’t melt like the Wicked Witch of the West,” McFadyen said with a chuckle.
Said Mike Buccilli, president of Corvettes of Buffalo, “All of the street was full of cars. The rain scared them away.”
Overall, it made for a disappointing day for event organizers like Dan Mezhir.
“There’s really nothing you can do about the weather,” said Mezhir, event director for Old Falls Street. “It’s discouraging, but [in] Western New York, you think about the winters ... the weather’s always going to be an issue no matter what. If she’s not going to cooperate, what are you going to do?”
In the next couple of days, area temperatures will still remain below normal but they will be headed higher, Welch said.
Today will show a noticeable improvement over Saturday with highs in the lower 70s. Sunny skies and highs in the mid-70s are forecast for Monday.
“It’s still a little bit below average, but that’s how most of the summer has been so far,” Welch said.