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Security to be tight

CONYERS - Those wishing to go to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of Barack Obama are advised to pack light, be prepared to walk or stand for long periods and hold off on sending that cell phone picture of themselves.

The area of the National Mall and U.S. Capitol is likely to be one of the safest places to be in this weekend leading up to the inauguration as thousands of police officers, National Guard troops and agents from 50 agencies secure the city.

Those lucky enough to obtain tickets for the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol will go through a security check starting at 8 a.m. Everybody else can watch the inauguration from the National Mall, which is under the jurisdiction of National Parks Service.

The Parks Service urged people to wear layers of clothing that can be taken off or put on as needed. According to its Web site devoted to the inauguration, the Parks Service states that people will have to contend with cold weather and also be prepared to do a lot of walking. Walking will generate body heat momentarily while standing in one place will cause one to become chilled.

Restricted items are standard for a large gathering, like firearms, explosives and knives. Security screeners will also keep large containers like bags, backpacks and coolers out of the area, too.

Washington Metro train and bus tickets will be in high demand. Transit authorities said they will be running at "crush capacity" for all of its lines and that some people may be delayed in getting from one stop to another.

Rockdale County business owner Alonzo Hill is organizing a bus trip to the inauguration from Conyers. He said a relative of a stylist working in his barber shop lives near Washington, D.C., and she was able to purchase advanced Metro tickets for the group and send them to Conyers by overnight delivery.

With an estimated 4 million people in town for the long weekend and 2 million people expected for the inauguration Tuesday, cell phone carrier networks will be put to the test.

Shannon Nix, a spokeswoman for CTIA The Wireless Association, a trade group representing the wireless phone industry, said carriers have been preparing for months for the expected onslaught of phone calls, text messages, photos and video expected to hit the local network.

However, she warned people to expect delays and service interruptions.

"It's a highway. Even if we build more lanes there might still be a traffic jam," she said.

Nix advised people at the inauguration to text rather than call friends and family since text messages use less bandwidth. Also, multimedia messages, like photos and movies, use larger amounts of bandwidth and should be saved on the phone and sent at a later time.

"Definitely have a plan B by establishing a place and time to meet in case cell phone reception is disrupted," Nix said.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com