What was billed as the biggest fireworks display ever in the nation’s capital was a bust for viewers on the National Mall, where the pyrotechnics were hard to see through their own smoke.
The logistics for best viewing were a bit different this year because of the move to West Potomac Park from the Lincoln Memorial, where President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” was held.
Those sitting to the east of the Washington Monument saw a few minutes of dazzling fireworks, but as the program continued, the fireworks became obscured by the smoke from the earlier explosions. The audience only saw a giant colored glare.
Weather was a challenge all day for people going to the Mall for the “Salute to America,” “A Capitol Fourth” and the fireworks. Those who went early went in 90-plus degree heat and humidity. Then the rains came, soaking the crowds.
Then the weather conditions contributed to the smoke hanging around.
On a normal night, there’s warm air at the surface, and the air gets colder going up into the atmosphere, so the smoke would have a place to go, Storm Team4 Meteorologist Amelia Draper explained.
Thursday night, the warmer air was just above the surface with cooler air trapped below it, so the smoke had nowhere to go.
Hundreds of people streamed out of the Mall before the show even ended.
It wasn’t a complete washout, though. In Virginia, folks reported seeing a great show. A light, westerly wind piled the smoke up in the District, and Virginia got a little bit of clearing, Draper said.
A similar situation took place on July 4, 2016, when storm clouds created poor visibility for the fireworks. That year, producers for PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” decided to add fireworks from previous broadcasts to the show. PBS wound up apologizing for the decision.