President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony will take place on a cool, cloudy day with little chance of rain, according to early weather forecasts.
The crowds next Monday are estimated to be smaller than at Obama’s first inaugural and organizers are working to avoid the chaos of 2009 — when more than a thousand people were trapped in what became known as “the purple tunnel of doom.”
The West Front of the Capitol is getting its finishing touches one week before the ceremonial swearing-in on Jan. 21: Construction on the inaugural platform is complete, the port-a-potties are set up around the Capitol complex, the press stands are built, the flags are being hung and the final rows of chairs are being set up on the South Lawn.
Bad-weather contingency plans are in place — the last time the ceremony was moved inside was for Ronald Reagan in 1985 — and officials will decide the afternoon beforehand if the ceremony will need to be moved into the Capitol Rotunda.
That is looking unlikely, however.
The day is predicted to be in the upper 30s, cloudy and with little chance of rain. Washington will also be in a dry spell leading up to the inauguration, meaning the National Mall will be dry — not muddy.
“There’s a slight chance of snow flurries coming in in the afternoon but, again, we’re seven days ahead and it’s tough to say with any degree of precision,” said Tom Kierein, a meteorologist for NBC 4 in Washington.
“It’ll be pretty cold with people having to stand out there for hours on end, but not as cold as Obama’s first inauguration.”
In 2009, it was 28 degrees Fahrenheit when Obama took the oath of the office.
On that day, a record 1.8 million people watched the first African-American be sworn in to the White House. It’s likely there will be about a million fewer viewers this year.
Between 600,000 and 800,000 people are expected, according to The Associated Press.
Some will have tickets, while others will watch from a distance on the National Mall.
Members of Congress are distributing 250,000 tickets — for both seated and standing areas — through their offices.
Security screening gates will open at 7 a.m. and music will begin at approximately 9:30.
Schumer will deliver the opening remarks at 11:30 a.m. Guests who are not through the screening points by 11:30 a.m. may not be allowed to enter.
The tickets are color-coded and each color represents a different section of the Mall where people can watch the event. The back of the ticket will contain a map that shows which security gate people should use and the closest Metro stop.
But one color is missing: purple.
“There are no purple [tickets]. And, in fact, the purple ticket nightmare, which occurred because of the Third Street tunnel — the Third Street tunnel will be closed,” Schumer said.
In 2009, a lack of security personnel, a broken magnetometer and a dearth of signs and directions contributed to several hundred people being trapped in the Third Street tunnel. They missed the inauguration.
To avoid a similar incident this year, 300 volunteers will direct ticket holders and people can use a smartphone app that provides information about the event and updates on security lines.
Inauguration staff will monitor social media sites for signs of slow-moving lines. Officials will use Twitter to direct the crowds.
Schumer said the use of the app and social media would “keep things moving.”
He noted temporary cellphone towers are being installed near the National Mall so people will have service.
The senator also encouraged online ticket sites not to sell inaugural tickets, which are free to the public through congressional offices.
“We’ve asked the online dealers in these tickets not to sell them. Stubhub has cooperated, but today I’m renewing my call — asking, actually — Craigslist and eBay not to sell inaugural tickets for money through an auction. That is their civic duty,” he said.
“Having a ticket to the inauguration is a privilege; it’s not something that should be used to make a profit.”
The three days of inauguration festivities are expected to cost over $100 million, mainly because of security. The Presidential Inauguration Committee raises funds that cover the majority of the costs.
Security will be handled by the U.S. Capitol Police, Washington D.C. Metro Police, the Secret Service, the House and Senate sergeants at arms, the FBI, the Park Police and the joint military task force.
Meanwhile, Capitol Hill staffers have been working overtime to get the Capitol into shape for the 57th inauguration.
Organizers held a full dress rehearsal on Sunday with stand-ins for Obama, Vice President Biden and their families.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Serpico Elliott played Obama.
“It was amazing, actually. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event. It was good to see it from looking down on it, instead of looking from the outside in,” Elliott said.
For the practice run, Elliott stood at Obama’s spot on the inaugural platform, wearing a large, white sign that designated him as the president.
Stand-ins for Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama stood at his side as he raised his hand to take the oath of office.
Officials also had a chance to rehearse the parade. Military bands, policemen on horses and security vehicles moved down Capitol Hill onto Pennsylvania Avenue and to the viewing stands at the White House, where the Obamas will watch the festivities.
The inauguration walk-through went smoothly, said Air Force Brig. Gen. James Scanlan, who helped prepare the organizers for the actual day.
As the stand-ins rehearsed the swearing-in ceremony, staffers added last-minute touches to the inaugural platform: placing name placards on chairs and on the bleachers so guests will know where to sit.
Schumer will sit next to Obama, while Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderObamaCare quietly leaves mark on Medicare despite repeal push GOP governors confront Medicaid divide A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-Tenn.), the ranking member, will sit next to Biden.
Obama’s and Biden’s families will sit behind the two men. They will be surrounded by members of the congressional leadership (and their spouses), members of the Supreme Court (and their spouses), the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the diplomatic corps.
There will also be some famous faces on the platform. There were signs on seats for Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor, all of whom are performing at the ceremony.
But one group of people who won’t be in the crowd are Capitol Hill staffers, who won’t have access to the Capitol building because it requires a special inaugural pass.
Those who receive such a pass are subject to strict security measures, including background checks and fingerprinting. Staffers will have access to their office buildings, however.
In fact, security will be so intense that day that several people who work on the inaugural ceremony will spend the night beforehand in their Capitol offices in order to avoid the long commute.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath to Obama, as he did in 2009. Obama will use Bibles belonging to Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Those Bibles have a special significance: Obama will be sworn in to office on Martin Luther King Day, which is also the 150th anniversary of Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will swear in Biden (Justice John Paul Stevens did it in 2009). The vice president will use his family Bible to take the oath. It is the same Bible that Biden used every time he was sworn in as a senator and when he was sworn in as vice president in 2009.
Alexandra Jaffe contributed.