Capping a long day of private planning and public speculation, Police Superintendent Michael Harrison announced Tuesday that all parades in New Orleans will roll on their assigned days this weekend, despite the threat of thunderstorms forecast to arrive Saturday.
“Having explored all options, it was determined that there is no viable way — in fairness to every parade krewe — to alter the parade schedule," Harrison said in a statement issued at 4 p.m.
“All parades will roll as planned on their assigned day and route. The NOPD will work with every krewe on the day of their scheduled parade to be flexible on the start times, should inclement weather make that necessary.”
In Jefferson Parish, officials said they would meet Wednesday morning to look at potential alternatives as they eye the weather, though no decisions would be made before the afternoon.
Word began spreading Tuesday morning that the superkrewe Endymion, which is scheduled to roll at 4:15 p.m. Saturday on its traditional Mid-City route, was exploring the possibility of changing the date of its parade in light of the weather forecast.
But Endymion President Dan Kelly said Harrison called him to explain that public safety department heads had met and discussed the alternatives and there could be no such adjustments.
“The chief has a very big responsibility and he had to worry about everything the city had to put together. It was not just our krewe, but every other krewe,” Kelly said. “We’re very appreciative to be able to go through the city of New Orleans, and that’s what we plan on doing.”
Asked what their preference would have been, Kelly replied, “Our position was we wanted to parade any time we could. Understandably, the city made the decision they did and we have to abide by it.
"We’ve got 5,000 raincoats coming, and we’re going to make the best of it.”
Kelly said Endymion’s 3,160 riders will pray for good weather, adding, “I know I’m going to St. Ann’s (Church and National Shrine) to light more candles.”
He said there was still hope the expected thunderstorms could materialize later or not at all, and that in any event, the Endymion Extravaganza would go on inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday.
“Naturally, if the weather is terrible, we will not parade,” he said. “But we’re hoping things will change between now and then.”
Endymion rolled on the Uptown route because of Hurricane Katrina and the post-storm reconstruction in 2006 and 2007. It was moved to follow Bacchus on Sunday on the Uptown route due to rain in 2011.
Mardi Gras Guide publisher Arthur Hardy said that while no one wants bad weather conditions, the decision to stick with the existing schedule keeps Endymion on a unique and crucial route.
“It’s good they’re going to be in Mid-City; it’s bad they’re going to get wet,” he said.
Hardy said rescheduling a parade the size of Endymion is “a logistical nightmare” that brings with it a host of challenges and compromises. Out-of-town riders may not be available; some bands are under contract to march in other parades; and the 60 buses Endymion needs to ferry its riders around could be otherwise occupied.
“The ripple effect is tremendous with any parade, but particularly a parade of that size,” he said.
Hardy noted that other than leaving open the possibility of adjusting start times, Harrison left little wiggle room in his statement.
“The good news, to me, is the decision was made firmly and early … and we can move on,” he said.
In Jefferson Parish, Keith Conley, chief operating officer in Parish President Mike Yenni’s administration, said officials will meet at 9 a.m. to discuss potential alternatives.
At some point Wednesday afternoon, those will be presented to various krewe captains, and a plan could begin to take shape.
“We’ll lay everything on the table and get a good path forward,” Conley said, noting the forecast likely will also be more definite a day closer to the weekend.
He said it was too early to discuss publicly what sort of changes might be on the table.
He said the parish and other agencies will have to sort out what is doable in terms of providing the needed support services from the fire, police and public works departments. The krewes, meanwhile, will have to look at their contractual obligations for things like tractors and floats.
Ultimately, Conley said, “it will be their decision. We just have to be able to give them the alternate plans.”