PORTLAND (AP) -Tourists poured into Maine under sunny skies Thursday in advance of the Fourth of July holiday as visitors and year-round residents prepared for a weekend of barbecues, fireworks and visits to the beach.

Forecasts for Independence Day called for partly sunny and warmer weather, although hazy, humid air could produce a few thunderstorms over northern and mountain sections. Hazy, humid conditions were expected to cover most of Maine on Saturday, with a return to sunny, less humid weather Sunday.

Traffic entering the Maine Turnpike at the York tolls was heavy during the early afternoon, with the volume pegged at about 3,700 vehicles an hour.

“It’s running smoothly. There’s no problems at the tolls, but I understand it’s moving pretty slow in the construction areas in Wells and Kennebunk, even though there’s no construction today,” said Duane Douglass, a toll supervisor in York.

The Maine Turnpike Authority expected some 700,000 cars to travel the toll road during the weekend. Officials said patrol coverage will be doubled during the period and warned that the minimum fine for speeding in Maine now stands at more than $109.

Many communities were making final preparations for Friday night fireworks displays, with the biggest set to take place off Portland’s Eastern Promenade.

With tens of thousands of spectators expected to turn out for the festivities, police were planning to beef up security.

“We’ve always had a visible presence. It’s just more significant after September 11th – a little more manpower, a little closer watch, a more visible presence in the harbor,” said Chief Michael Chitwood.

The Maine Forest Service appealed to the public to use caution in building campfires in wooded areas, saying unattended campfires and those not properly extinguished pose a serious threat when forests are dry.

Fire danger levels were expected to range from high to very high over the weekend along southern coastal areas and in much of eastern Maine. In most other areas the danger levels will be moderate to high.

Towns across the state were planning parades, musical performances and other festivities to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

The town of Jay got a jump on the holiday by holding its Independence Day parade on Thursday afternoon and its fireworks show at night.

Jay Police Chief Larry White said the town for years has had the parade and fireworks on July 3.

He said it is thought that officials years ago began holding the festivities a day early to ensure that the town would have a fireworks display. It was hard to hire companies to light off the fireworks on the Fourth of July because they were in such demand by larger municipalities, he said.

AP-ES-07-03-03 1652EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.