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Richard N. Velotta

What you need to know about ringing in the New Year in Las Vegas

30 December 2015

There are some things you need to know if your plan is to party in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve.

Yahoo! named Las Vegas the top place in the world to ring in the new year, and anyone who has witnessed a Vegas New Year can attest that it gets wild. Officials are expecting more than 300,000 visitors to come to the valley for the long holiday weekend.

But warn your old acquaintances not to forget it will be cold. National Weather Service meteorologist Chad Shafer said Tuesday that revelers will have to bear temperatures in the mid- to upper-30s about midnight on New Year's Eve.

Whether wind will be a problem is something to watch for in the coming days. Wind speeds of 10 mph could affect the fireworks show on the Strip, and the forecast on Tuesday was for winds between 5 and 10 mph, Shafer said.

Partygoers should also be aware of the road closures and security measures that will be in place.

If you're planning to hit up the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas, be aware that the area under the canopy will be closed to the public at 4 p.m. to prepare for the night's festivities. It will reopen at 6 p.m.

As always, much of Las Vegas Boulevard and some surrounding areas will be closed to vehicles starting at 5 p.m., when the Interstate 15 flyover ramps to eastbound Tropicana Avenue, Flamingo Road and Spring Mountain Road close.

At 5:45 p.m., all other streets, roads and alleys leading westbound onto Las Vegas Boulevard, from Koval Lane, between Sahara Avenue and Mandalay Bay Road, begin closing with all barricades in place by 6 p.m. Las Vegas police will then begin clearing the boulevard of all remaining cars, and pedestrians can start walking in the street at 6:30 p.m.

The 215 Beltway will stay open, but some of the ramps leading to the Strip will close. Harmon Avenue and the bridge leading into CityCenter from the west and Harmon east of Las Vegas Boulevard will be open only to hotel guests of the properties in the area.

Escalators and elevators on pedestrian bridges across the Strip also will close at 6:30 p.m.

Fireworks spectacular

The magic happens at midnight, when an elaborate fireworks show launches from the rooftops of seven resorts on the Strip, including the MGM Grand, Aria, Planet Hollywood Resort, Caesars Palace, Treasure Island, The Venetian and the Stratosphere.

For the full, panoramic view of the display, you'll want to find a spot high up or an area away from the boulevard. Many people park at the airport to watch the show, but anywhere in the valley with altitude and a line of sight to the Strip will do.

The High Roller at The Linq offers a 360-degree view, 550 feet above the Las Vegas streets that will be at a standstill for the midnight display. There were only a few individual tickets and a few private group cabins left Tuesday afternoon. Individual tickets for midnight fireworks start at $250 and private cabins start at $7,500.

After the midnight fireworks extravaganza, the crowds on the Strip will begin to disperse. The escalators and elevators at pedestrian bridges should be turned back on by 12:15 a.m.

Barricades on the Strip will begin to come down at 1:30 a.m., and street sweepers will start on the Boulevard about 2 a.m.

Roads around the Strip are expected to reopen about 3:30 a.m., but this timeline, provided by Las Vegas police, is tentative.

If you plan on parking at any of the big resorts within the road closure area, be aware that the rush to leave shortly after the midnight fireworks will leave you sitting in your car, possibly for hours.

The good news is that several streets will remain open, including Sahara Avenue, Mandalay Bay Road, Desert Inn Road, Frank Sinatra Drive, Koval Lane, Russell Road and except for ramps to and from the Strip, Interstate 15, the 215 Beltway and U.S. Highway 95 will be open all night.

And this year you have the added option of using ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft. Surge pricing is likely, but it's another way to avoid catching a case for drunken driving. The Regional Transportation Commission is offering free bus rides on all fixed routes from 6 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday. Check for information about detours around road closures when planning your trip.

Metro said Monday that there will be DUI checkpoints throughout the valley, but the department did not respond to a request for information about them as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

More police than ever

Las Vegas police will have more cops on the road than ever.

The department said Monday that there will be about 1,000 uniformed officers on the Strip and more than 300 on Fremont Street. That's in addition to the undercover officers among the crowd and on patrol throughout the valley.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters Monday that the department was being extra cautious in light of recent terrorist attacks. That's also why you will probably see some National Guard troops Thursday night.

For more than a dozen years, the Guard has conducted drills in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve and worked to provide an extra set of eyes and ears at McCarran International Airport and near law enforcement and firefighting facilities throughout the valley.

Last year, about 65 Nevada Guard soldiers and airmen participated. About 168 troops will assist about 1,500 local law enforcement officials for this year's celebration, including 24 Nevada Guard members working with Metro, 100 working with Clark County and 44 stationed at the airport. A host of cameras will conduct surveillance, too.

Gov. Brian Sandoval requested the additional troops after the Islamic State group-led terrorist attack in Paris and adjacent suburb that left 130 people dead. Officials on Monday met with the news media to reassure New Year's Eve party-goers that they have the situation under control and will keep everyone safe.