NEW ORLEANS — Jeanne Nathan and Bob Tannen, ages 78 and 83, sat outside Esplanade Avenue early Tuesday morning — Mardi Gras — dressed in big winter coats to catch people passing their “house float.” It features a fiberglass cast made by Tannen, a sculptor, of “Marlina,” the largest blue marlin caught in the Gulf of Mexico by a woman.
It was 27 degrees, a cold made worse by the tropical city’s humidity. “Even though I once lived in New Hampshire, this is colder,” said Tannen, who had a knit scarf wrapped around his neck against the wet cold.
The couple’s home is one of thousands of specially decorated private residences that sprouted up this year after Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) closed all bars, barricaded many French Quarter streets and canceled all Carnival parades, balls and group activities to avoid a repeat of last year’s superspreader event.
Small groups of costumed people — including parents pulling children in wagons decorated in purple, green and gold, and couples dressed in zany pairings such as Lady Gaga and Garth Brooks from the presidential inauguration — have been braving the cold all weekend to visit house floats.
Before they went to bed Monday — historically celebrated as Lundi Gras in the city — New Orleanians left faucets running with a thin trickle of water to avoid frozen pipes, one of the biggest worries in this warm city, where most homes have exposed water pipes that can freeze in frigid weather.
During a hard freeze in 2018, when too many trickling faucets pulled water from the system at the same time, water pressure dropped, triggering a citywide boil-water advisory. Burst pipes were nearly inevitable, advised Ghassan Korban, executive director of the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans. “You will likely see water main ruptures,” he advised at a news conference Monday, as he described his agency’s challenges, including a turbine providing electricity to drinking-water pumps that won’t function in temperatures below 45 degrees.