The clear skies held for Fourth of July fireworks in Maine, but Monday’s fog, clouds and showers sent many tourists heading home early and there was a steady stream of motorists headed out of the state.

The Maine Turnpike Authority reported lighter-than-expected traffic as vehicles moved through the York Toll Plaza to points south. State police reported no major accidents or tie-ups.

Despite high gas prices, innkeepers, amusement park managers, charter boat captains and others on the front lines of the tourism industry were optimistic, reporting business levels outpacing what they saw a year ago.

But turnpike traffic, another indicator, was lower than anticipated. Between 3,000 and 4,000 vehicles an hour were streaming through the York Toll Plaza northward on Friday and southward on Monday. Those numbers weren’t in line to challenge last year’s record of 440,265 vehicles passing through the toll plaza during the first week of July.

The Independence Day weekend was highlighted by the return of a patrol squadron from overseas duty to Brunswick Naval Air Station.

“What better day for them to come home?” said Camille Register, who gathered up her four young children to greet their father, Lt. Rodney Register, a P-3 Orion pilot, on Sunday.

In Bath, the Independence Day celebration had people humming as a kazoo band played and 1,000 kazoos were handed out.

With Independence Day falling on a Sunday, government offices and banks were closed Monday and there were no mail deliveries.

It was a relatively safe holiday weekend with state police boosting patrols and using airplanes and unmarked cars to target problem areas on the turnpike, interstate and secondary roads.

But there was a fatal crash Saturday in Harrington, and a boater drowned Friday night in Gorham.

In Harrington, Lindsay Strout, a 23-year-old mother of two, was killed in a crash that was blamed on speed and alcohol, deputies said. Her husband was behind the wheel, but the children weren’t in the car.

In Gorham, a boater fell overboard on the Presumpscot River while trying to start his motor. Reginald Matthews of South Portland had a weak pulse when he was pulled from the water and he died later at a hospital.

AP-ES-07-05-04 1654EDT



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