Breaking News Emails
Not only is it raining on their parade, but it's darn cold, too.
Mardi Gras revelers in New Orleans — accustomed to balmy weather for their big annual celebration — spent Tuesday bundled up under their costumes as the mercury hovered in the high 30s.
The wet, chilly conditions notably lowered attendance, NBC station WDSU reported. They also shortened the parade for high school and college units — including dozens of bands — as safety concerns prompted an early exit.
At 4 p.m. local time, New Orleans was registering at 39 degrees. That's just shy of the coldest Fat Tuesday high ever recorded — 38 degrees in Feb. 14, 1899, according to the National Weather Service.
In contrast, the warmest Mardi Gras on record was Feb. 20, 1917, when temperatures climbed to 83 degrees. The average is around 67 degrees.
"It's cold for Mardi Gras," said Mike Shields, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service, adding that it was particularly cool considering how late Mardi Gras falls this year.
Mardi Gras, the final day of the Carnival season, is on a different date each year, falling the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
Breaking News Emails
Only four other Mardi Gras have fallen on March 4, and their average high was 64.8 degrees. No more than a trace of rain has ever fallen on a March 4 Mardi Gras, but the wettest Mardi Gras ever was 2.12 inches of rain on March 1, 1927.
The cold that New Orleans revelers are experiencing is part of the bitter temperatures that have enveloped the country this winter, Shields said.
"It's just been a continuation of these cold air masses coming down into the eastern part of the country. This is just the latest one," he said. "The whole cold spell that the eastern part of the country has right now is affecting the South."
The wet, chilly conditions notably lowered Mardi Gras attendance in New Orleans, NBC station WDSU reported. They also shortened the parade for high school and college units — including dozens of bands — as safety concerns prompted an early exit.
But the cold and gray didn't stop all merrymakers from having fun — tens of thousands still gathered in the city's French Quarter.
Mark Nelson, who came from St. Louis for the festivities, said he wasn't worried about getting rained on.
"That's why God made washing machines," he told the Associated Press while drinking a daiquiri.
Revelers in Lafayette and Lake Charles weren't so lucky. Ice and sleet closed Interstate 10 for almost 60 miles for several hours Tuesday, and some events were canceled in both cities.
M. Alex Johnson of NBC News contributed to this report.