As Mardi Gras nears, a beefed-up police presence and a rain-scrambled parade schedule in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans’ annual Carnival celebration entered its high-intensity home stretch Friday with a beefed-up police presence and a weather forecast that threatened to disrupt the first of two weekends of elaborate parades.

Three parades were scheduled to roll Friday night with no weather complications expected. But flood-threatening rains were in the forecast for Saturday. City officials and organizers of six parades scheduled to roll Saturday were moving up start times in hopes of avoiding the deluges.

“We can move some times back and forth. We will thread the needle with these parades,” Collin Arnold, the city’s homeland security director, said during a news conference earlier in the week.

In neighboring Jefferson Parish, the Mad Hatters parade was moved from Saturday to Sunday.

Carnival season started Jan. 6 and ends on Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — which falls this year on Feb. 13. The final two weekends are marked by elaborate processions on St. Charles Avenue.

Because of the rain threat, the first of six processions, which typically feature marching bands and floats carrying masked riders, was to kick off Saturday at 9:30 a.m., instead of midday. And parade organizations were mulling cutbacks in the number of participants. The Krewe of Sparta parade, the last parade scheduled for the day, planned to roll with floats only, in hopes of wrapping up before the rain arrives.

The New Orleans Police Department, which has been making do with a diminished force of about 900 for several years, will be joined by more than 100 state troopers, 170 Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department deputies and more than 200 deputies from other Louisiana jurisdictions.

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