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Downpours soak region, Erie County Fair attendees

When Sherri and Rich Horn arrived at the Erie County Fair on Sunday evening with their 4-month-old son, the skies were so clear, they decided to leave their umbrella in the car.

"It was so sunny," Sherri Horn said. "We didn't think we needed it."

Big mistake.

The last day of the fair saw three downpours that sent fairgoers scurrying for cover, shut down rides and knocked over tents. No injuries were reported.

According to the National Weather Service, there were reports of more than 2 inches of rain in Hamburg. The airport weather station in Cheektowaga got an official 1.29 inches. The Weather Service also got reports from the fair of dime-sized hail.

"The crowds came throughout, regardless," said Lou Ann Delaney, the fair's director of marketing. "We didn't have to cancel anything and people came for that last piece of fried dough, last Italian sausage because it's the end of summer."

Power outages affected several thousand customers of New York State Electric & Gas, as well as National Grid. At one point early Sunday afternoon, more than 11,000 NYSEG customers were without power in Cheektowaga and West Seneca.

Police shut down a section of Route 198 at Parkside Avenue for about 45 minutes Sunday night after three National Grid poles toppled.

There were numerous reports of street and underpass flooding, particularly in the Village of Hamburg.

Until Sunday, the fair had beautiful weather, attracting so many visitors that attendance is expected to break last year's record attendance, Delaney said.

The first shower was around 11 a.m., the next was about 6:30 p.m. and another around 7:30 p.m. But after the third downpour, fairgoers resumed their activities, under sunny skies and a rainbow.

Some areas got flooded, some were without power and some vendors had to close early when their supplies got soaked, Delaney said. With lightning accompanying the rain, all 70 rides, with lights blinking, sat idle for safety.

Hearty fairgoers, some sporting ponchos and others carrying umbrellas with their cotton candy, picked up where they left off each time it stopped raining.

"We hid in the RV showroom until it cleared," said Horn, a West Seneca resident. Then the family continued strolling the midway and checking out shops.

"The rain made it more interesting," she said. "We couldn't find any ponchos, though. They were all sold out. But it was my son's first rainstorm outside, so that's special."

The Brodowski family, of Elma, arrived at 10:30 a.m. and stayed through the three torrential showers. But Sheree Brodowski said the soggy weather didn't ruin their experience. As usual, they took in the demolition derby, ate some Chiavetta's chicken, ice cream and picked up some kettle corn for the road.

"The rain was not a big deal," she said. "We walked around and did everything we usually do, but with wet sneakers."

"And wet socks," added 8-year-old Delpine Brodowski. "And we stepped in a lot of puddles."

News Staff Reporter Janice Habuda contributed to this