State police gearing up for presidential inauguration

Published 8:02 am Wednesday, January 7, 2009

If you’re one of the millions of Americans planning on going to the historic inauguration of the nation’s 44th president, the Virginia State Police are trying to make sure you come prepared.

“We never want to discourage anyone from going,” said Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police. “This is a time for the nation to celebrate this milestone, but the sooner they start planning, the better experience they’ll have.”

With so many people planning to make the trip for Barack Obama’s inauguration, police and officials from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia are urging people to plan ahead for the experience.

Even for those who aren’t going, Virginians as far south as Hampton Roads could see some residual effects of the expected traffic congestion on Interstate 64.

“Northern Virginia has gridlock on a good day,” Geller said. “Add a few thousand more people, and we are expecting some serious congestion up there.”

Geller added that the troopers have been informed that hotels are booked solid along interstates 64 and 95 as far south as the North Carolina border.

“We’re trying to get the word out for folks,” Geller said. “We do anticipate there could be some heavier congestion elsewhere in the state.”

To help ease the expected traffic woes, attendees are encouraged to utilize mass transportation, especially charter buses.

“It’s going to be very limited for personal vehicles,” she said. “There’s only so many parking spaces in the district.”

For those who manage to make it into Washington, they should be in moderately good physical shape and dress warmly and sensibly, Geller said.

Attendees should be prepared to be outside in extreme cold. Those who cannot stand in crowded conditions for at least eight hours, walk at least three to five miles, or tolerate extreme cold, wet and windy weather for an extended period of time should consider their physical condition before attempting to attend the festivities.

Those planning to bring small children, elderly people or anyone with a weakened immune system should take extra consideration to prevent illness or injury.

People who still want to be in Washington as Obama is sworn in should expect large crowds and a crushed public transportation system. Washington’s subway system, the Metro, will be running rush-hour service all day.

As with all inaugurations, a contingent of Virginia State Police will be in Washington helping with security, crowd control, traffic and other law enforcement as needed, Geller said.

The troopers are at the mercy of the Secret Service, which coordinates all law enforcement efforts for the event.

In addition, troopers will be pulled from other parts of the state and reassigned to the northern and central parts of the state in anticipation of traffic, she said.

Other things to consider if you will be in Washington for the inauguration:

Regardless of the weather conditions, umbrellas will not be permitted in the ticketed areas. Other prohibited items include, but are not limited to: firearms and ammunition (either real or simulated), explosives of any kind (including fireworks), knives, blades, or sharp objects (of any length), Mace and/or pepper spray, sticks or poles, pockets or hand tools, such as “Leatherman,” packages, backpacks, large bags, duffel bags, suitcases, thermoses, coolers, strollers, laser pointers, signs, posters, animals (other than service animals), alcoholic beverages, other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screeners.

Bring with you any medications that you need because there will be very long delays in getting to and from events.

Be aware that it may be difficult to talk or send pictures from your cell phone, according to wireless companies.

Use text messaging to send critical messages.