NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As New Orleans prepares for the height of the Carnival season, the city's mayor outlined security and infrastructure preparations and said the city is "more than prepared for Mardi Gras 2019."
At a news conference Tuesday, LaToya Cantrell and her administration laid out plans for this year's festivities. They highlighted a large exercise to be held Friday to prepare emergency responders, the expanded use of gutter buddies to keep beads and debris out of the drainage system, a temporary halt to construction on Bourbon Street and a plea for residents to keep their guns at home.
The city is approaching the height of Carnival season with an increasing number of parades in the coming weekends. The party ends at midnight on March 5 which is Fat Tuesday.
One of the key concerns for any Mardi Gras is security. Some previous festivities have been marred by shootings near or along the parade route.
"We will be all hands on deck for this event," said the city's new police chief, Shaun Ferguson. He called on people to have fun but also act responsibly. "Most importantly, please leave your guns at home."
City officials said they will be holding a large exercise Friday so emergency responders can practice. They're warning residents in the city's Treme and French Quarter that they might hear noises associated with the exercise Friday morning.
Collin Arnold, who heads the city's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said they have been planning the exercise for about eight months and will have about 400 volunteers there to act as "victims." He also described a new website launched this year that allows people to track parades and find first aid stations and bathrooms along parade routes.
The city will also temporarily halt construction being done on Bourbon Street. Under a multi-million dollar plan, workers have been tearing up the street in order to repair and replace infrastructure lines and repave the road. City official Ramsey Green said while work is suspended, there will not be any fencing but instead temporary asphalt will be laid.
"The street will look like there's no construction going on," he said. Construction will resume Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday.
In an effort to keep Mardi Gras beads and other debris out of the city's troubled drainage system, the city is expanding the use of gutter buddies — a long sand bag — which protect storm drains so water can flow into the drain but not debris. The gutter buddies are put out during Mardi Gras season and then removed after the parades are over.
Last year, the city reported that 93,000 pounds of Mardi Gras beads had been sucked out of the storm drains along a five-block stretch of St. Charles Ave.
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