CHARLOTTE, N.C. Updated 1:45 a.m.
The weather continued to be a big story in Charlotte leading up to the start of the Democratic National Convention, and it’s likely to be the same Monday for the special convention-related events.
And Monday will bring Charlotte-area motorists a new round of road closures -- in uptown and in the Ballantyne area -- because of the DNC.
Meanwhile, it was busy late Sunday night and early Monday on uptown Charlotte-area streets, but there were no signs of problems. A quiet night also was under way a few blocks away, where Occupy Charlotte members were camping at Marshall Park.
The big weather story Sunday was heat, not storms.
The temperature reached 93 degrees at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, and with the dew point temperature near 70 degrees, it was a very hot and humid afternoon. Medic responded to eight heat-related calls Sunday, and at least two of those were people involved in the uptown protest march.
One of those stricken by the heat was taken to Carolinas Medical Center in serious condition. Authorities remind people to drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic or non-caffeinated beverages. Temperatures are expected to approach 90 degrees with high humidity again Monday.
Sunday’s problems with the heat came a day after heavy thunderstorms rattled the uptown area late Saturday afternoon, causing some minor flooding and downing a few trees.
Sunday night in Charlotte
There was heavy police presence again late Sunday and early Monday in Charlotte’s uptown, where the restaurants and clubs were doing brisk business. Shortly before midnight Sunday, workers were on the job at the Google complex on South Tryon Street, installing a new logo.
More barricades had been put in place for Monday’s CarolinaFest event.
A minor stir was created about 11 p.m., when someone began flashing images with a projector on the side of the Bank of America Corporate Center on North Tryon Street. But the person or people responsible for the images was gone within a few minutes.
Members of Occupy Charlotte says the images are displayed by a projector that is connected to a computer. The two pieces of equipment are carried by protestors in a baby carriage, according to an Occupy Charlotte protester.
A few blocks to the south, about 30 tents were pitched in Marshall Park, where protesters were staying. That is more than twice the number of tents in the park a night earlier.
Despite the growth of the group, it was quiet. Many of the protest coalition’s members were asleep, but a few were still awake, strumming on guitars.
The remnants of Hurricane Isaac will affect the Carolinas on Monday and Tuesday, with a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms expected, especially late Monday afternoon and evening. Severe thunderstorms are not expected, but forecasters say isolated flash flooding will be the big threat, due to the high water content and slow-moving nature of the storms.
Actually, the Carolinas had a narrow escape from severe weather late Sunday.
A line of powerful storms formed over Tennessee, triggering the issuance of a tornado watch over much of the state. Larry Lee, of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C., said meteorologists think those storms will move into Georgia overnight, rather than into the Carolinas.
Instead, he advises people attending outdoor events Monday to be prepared for possible heavy rain.
More of the same is likely Tuesday, but the DNC’s events are mostly indoors that day.
Uptown road closings
More roads are continuing to be closed for the Democratic National Convention.
As of 6 p.m. Sunday, these uptown-area streets were closed to vehicle traffic and public street parking, with the restrictions ending Thursday at approximately 9 a.m.:
• East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from South College Street to South Caldwell Street.
• East 3rd Street from South College Street to South Davidson Street.
• South Brevard Street from East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to East 4th Street.
• South Caldwell Street from East Stonewall Street to East 4th Street.
• South Davidson Street from East 3rd Street to East 4th Street.
And at 1 a.m. Monday, this road closure was scheduled to go in place (until 5 a.m. Friday):
East 4th Street from South College Street to South McDowell Street.
The closure of Tryon Street was the first of many road blockages DNC visitors and area residents ran into this week. Additional closures went into effect at 9 a.m. Sunday for several roads near Time Warner Cable Arena, which will host events during the first two days of the convention.
Those closures include:
• Trade and Fifth streets between North College and North Myers.
• Sixth Street from College to North Alexander.
• Seventh Street from College to North Davidson.
• Caldwell between Fourth and Ninth streets.
• Elizabeth Avenue between Kings Drive and Charlottetown Avenue. CATS buses will be allowed.
Road restrictions will vary over the coming days.
Ballantyne road closings
These closures begin at 9 a.m. Monday and last until noon Friday:
Ballantyne Commons Parkway westbound, from North Community House Road to Johnston Road (U.S. 521).
Ballantyne Corporate Place eastbound, from east of Brixham Hill Drive to Ballantyne Commons Parkway.
More closures will take place Wednesday morning.
Changing the tune
Protest chants gave way in uptown Charlotte Sunday night to other sounds, including music drifting in from DNC events at the Mint and Bechtler museums, the chatter of conversation among convention visitors and the bustle of folks who were setting up for Monday’s CarolinaFest event.
Makeeva Omari Spann, who drove in from Dayton, Ohio, was already at his booth for CarolinaFest. He will be drawing portraits of people and also is selling his own works, which include portraits of such celebrities as Muhammad Ali, John Lennon and President Barack Obama.
“I was at the inauguration,” he said. “Anytime I get a chance to be anywhere President Obama is at, I’ll be there.”
CarolinaFest, Labor Day Parade
The uptown area will feature a pair of events Monday that are open to the public with no admission charge.
The Labor Day Parade begins at 10 a.m. and follows a route around the edge of the CarolinaFest. It begins at Pearl Street Park (Baxter Street) and follows McDowell Street, Stonewall Street, South Caldwell Street, and 3rd Street, finishing at Marshal Park. It will include the West Charlotte High band, a number of organized labor groups, and plenty of political candidates.
CarolinaFest takes place from noon until about 6:15 p.m. along South Tryon Street and features live performances by James Taylor and actor Jeff Bridges and his band. This is billed as a family-free event.
Charlotte Area Transit System and city officials recommend that people take mass transit to the uptown events. The light rail line will run on a Saturday schedule.
Buses are operating on a Sunday schedule. Some suggestions:
Arboretum -- take Route 14/Providence Road (runs every 60 minutes).
Eastlake Mall -- take Route 9/Central Avenue (runs every 30 minutes).
Freedom Mall -- take Route 8/Tuckaseegee (runs every 60 minutes) or Route 34/Freedom Drive (runs every 45 minutes). Park near the bus stop at Tuckaseegee and Ashley roads, not at the Freedom Family Restaurant lot.
Matthews -- take Route 17/Commonwealth (runs every 60 minutes). Park at the park-and-ride lot, 9614 Independence Pointe Parkway (behind the Showmars on East Independence Boulevard, east of Sam Newell Road).
Northlake Mall -- take Route 7S/Beatties Ford (runs every 40 minutes).
UNC Charlotte -- take Route 11/North Tryon (runs every 30 minutes). You are permitted to park only at East Deck 2 on the UNCC campus. Other parking areas are off-limits.
Wal-Mart, Wilkinson Boulevard -- take Route 2/Ashley Park (runs every 60 minutes).
Cylinders investigation continues
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is continuing to investigate two concrete cylinders found shortly before the March on Wall Street South began.
A Mobile Field Force Officer found the cylinders at 700 S. Tryon St., the department reported. The overpass covers Interstate 277. Detectives have not released additional information as of 5 p.m.
About 800 protesters started marching through uptown at about 1 p.m. According to a city spokesperson, there were two people at the protest who were treated for heat-related issues, but they were not taken to the hospital.
Police also arrested one woman who, according to a friend, refused to remove a scarf covering part of her face. Police said Anna Marie Wright, 23, of Newton, was arrested on charges related to wearing a mask and carrying a concealed weapon , a knife, at 4th and College Streets around 2:25 p.m. Chris Wright Stephens, 32, was arrested during the parade on charges of disorderly conduct, assault on a government official and resisting arrest at the 200 block of South College Street.
One delegate was hospitalized briefly after passing out, apparently intoxicated, at the Blake Hotel.
No other problems have been reported for the Charlotte area as of 7:40 p.m.
Smooth passages at airport
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport officials said they experienced normal traffic numbers for a Sunday afternoon. That meant no delays in arrivals and departures. Lee Davis, a spokeswoman for the airport, says about 11,000 arriving passengers ended their flights Sunday in Charlotte.
Some delegates arriving at the airport said they’d been told they’d have a 20-minute wait to get a spot on a motor coach heading to their hotel. But many people were able to get rides earlier than that.
Connecticut delegate William Henderson III would have been hard to miss as he arrived at the airport Sunday morning. Henderson, president of the Communication Workers of America Local 1298 union, explained his agenda for the campaign while he stood in the baggage claim area on the airport’s lower level.
“We’re gonna kick --- for the working class,” he shouted to attendants behind the counter. “We’re going to bring back America.”
State Sen. Bill Perkins of New York’s 30th District campaigned for President Obama four years ago and attended his first nomination ceremony. He arrived in Charlotte Sunday so he would have time to get settled and see the city before caucus meetings begin.
“I was the first to endorse Obama in the state of New York,” Perkins said. “It’s perhaps even more important for us to continue the work that needs to be done. Looking at the other (Republican) convention and the way it was handled indicates we have a great challenge ahead of us.
“There was a negative message sent out,” he said, a reference to actor and director Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National Convention. Eastwood took jabs at Obama over the nation’s unemployment rate, among other things.
The weather was blamed for some flight delays Saturday afternoon, when two thunderstorms crossed the city.
A US Airways spokeswoman said the airline expects about 11,000 local passengers at the airport Monday, which she said is similar to the number of travelers the airline sees on the day before Thanksgiving. She said she couldn’t say how much traffic is due to the DNC versus people returning from Labor Day vacations.
Charlotte is US Airways’ largest hub with 650 daily flights.
Sunday also marks the second day of temporary traffic changes at the airport. To help handle extra congestion, all commercial ground transportation such as shuttles or taxis has been directed to the lower level of the airport. Meanwhile, those who are arriving or leaving by personal car must use the upper level of the airport.
The road changes will continue through Monday.
Private car companies
Business was good for private car companies.
General Manager Jonathan Brown said Executive Car Service expanded its fleet, and could lease even more cars.
The 25-year-old company’s normal fleet includes about 16 Lincoln sedans, SUVs and 15-passenger vans, said Brown, who describes his company as the second-largest in the area behind Rose Chauffeured Transportation.
This week the company will have about 65 cars of the same type in town. The extra vehicles and their drivers are coming from other companies as far away as Charleston, Brown said.
“This has turned out to be a little more than we were expecting,” Brown said. “If we could take another 20 vehicles or so we could find business for those.
“All of those vehicles are basically taken,” he said. “We don’t have any availability for the week.”
Many of the leases started on Sunday and continue until Friday, driving visitors to events.
Brown said vehicles in Charlotte generally rent for about $60 per hour but he said he believes many companies have doubled or tripled their rates for convention week.
“That makes the city look bad,” he said. “I just couldn’t do it. It’s not good business.”
SouthPark Limousine Service has been able to pick up overflow business from local competitors this week, said Brian Goggin, owner of the seven-year-old company.
“We’ll probably do as much in one week as we do in a month,” Goggin said. “The majority of it is airport service.”
It’s a small company with four vehicles, Lincoln Town Car sedans and Chevrolet Suburbans. He’s the only full-time employee. All others are drivers who subcontract with him.
He said bringing in more cars would have required more administrative work than he can handle. He was also discouraged by the fact that he would have to get permits for any vehicles he brought here.
“They are giving temporary permits,” he said. “The river has to be permitted too. To go through the permitting process is too much for a small company like mine to handle.”
His busiest days will be Monday through Thursday. “One vehicle may be gone 15 hours in one day — hotels, the convention center, restaurants, wherever they need to go.”
There are staging areas for vehicles. One is the former Freedom Mall site, now called Freedom Center.
... and fighter jets
No, you weren’t hearing things.
Fighter jets flew over portions of Charlotte on Sunday as part of a military exercise to prepare for the possibilities that aircraft could stray into restricted airspace during the convention.
The exercise began around 8:45 a.m. Sunday and was to last about 30 minutes. Among the aircraft expected to participate are Civil Air Patrol aircraft, Air Force F-16s, and a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter. A similar exercise was conducted during the Republican National Convention held in Tampa last week.
The 311 telephone service has extended its hours and is open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Residential garbage and recycling will be collected according to the normal schedule the week of Sept.3, except for locations within the secure perimeter in uptown. For those spots, garbage and recycling collection will occur on the regularly scheduled day but between 12:01 a.m. and 6 a.m. Yard waste and bulky item collection services will be suspended.
Staff writers Elisabeth Arriero, Adam Bell, April Bethea, Meghan Cooke, Carmen Cusido, Joe DePriest, Steve Harrison, Steve Lyttle, Joe Marusak, Brittany Penland, Mark Price, Kerry Singe, Karen Sullivan, researcher Marion Paynter and the Associated Press contributed.
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