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At BlackTop Nationals, cars shine

A little rain? Wichitan Vernon Gilliland laughed.

With a candy-apple red 1966 Mustang just a week out of the garage following restoration, not much – especially a little rain – would keep the 72-year-old car owner away from downtown Wichita this weekend.

“I’ve been planning for this for a year,” he said, lounging next to his car and his wife, Connie, 66.

And if the rain returns?

“I’ll just wipe the car down.”

Despite Gilliland’s enthusiasm, a rainy forecast for the weekend did cause concern for some car owners expected to showcase their vehicles at the BlackTop Nationals, which runs through Sunday in downtown Wichita.

Some opted out of the three-day event, including members of Heartland Camaros, a Wichita-based car club. Derby resident Patrick McPhail, 26, meticulously stroked a soft cloth around a door handle of his cyber-gray 2010 Chevy Camaro on Friday afternoon. He said he detailed the car Thursday in anticipation of the rain. It took 15 hours. Others in his club, though, stayed home.

“About half of our members didn’t come out because of the rain,” he said.

BlackTop Nationals president Rick Nuckolls said he expects 700 to 900 cars this weekend, weather permitting.

“Everything is on go,” he said. “We’re going to have a great show regardless of the rain,” though some outside events may be delayed or canceled if the rain gets heavy.

The area’s first significant rainfall in weeks caused problems beyond the car show. The rain triggered numerous power outages and a small spike in traffic accidents during the morning commute in the Wichita area, officials said.

The tag office on Murdock in downtown Wichita suffered a power outage for more than an hour Friday morning, and additional outages were reported in Derby and along Kellogg near Greenwich Road.

“Outages like we are experiencing today are common when we have light rain after an extended period of heat and dryness,” Westar spokesman Shane Batchelder said in an e-mail response to questions. “With light rain, like today’s, the particles are collected and carried into parts of the equipment, causing troubles ranging from minor equipment failures to pole fires and downed lines.

“In a stronger rainfall, dirt and dust particles that have built up on the equipment would be washed away instead.”

Most outages had been repaired by early afternoon, according to Westar’s online outage report site.

Light rain after an extended dry spell can make paved roads slick because grease and grime that have accumulated on the surface congeal with the moisture.

There were 28 accidents reported in Wichita between 6 a.m. and noon on Friday, compared with six during the same period on Thursday, according to Randy Bargdill, director of Sedgwick County Emergency Communications.

Rain is expected to continue periodically through most of the weekend. But the rain and dropping temperatures were welcomed by Peggy Spradlin and Todd Westenfeld, who found it perfect for a late afternoon stroll among classic cars.

“It’s just cooler and nice,” Spradlin said, as the couple walked along Douglas at the BlackTop Nationals. “ We need it.”

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