Space shuttle Endeavour is running at least 3 hours behind
The space shuttle Endeavour has fallen at least three hours behind, delayed by trees, a particularly narrow stretch of roadway and an LAPD truck that blocked the shuttle's path.
Near Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, the shuttle was supposed to arrive at 2 p.m., but it was still at least an hour away as of 4 p.m.
"I feel like it's coming back from China. It's taking so long," said Lorenzo Rivera, 9, of Montebello, who was there with his family at 10:30 a.m. By 3:40 p.m., his family has burned through all of the snacks they had brought.
"We're starving," said Lorenzo's friend, Lucas Santoro, sitting on a stone wall separating a parking lot from the sidewalk, shaded under a tree.
The day started ahead of schedule, arriving at the Forum in Inglewood an hour and a half ahead of schedule. But the delays began there, with an extra-long ceremony forcing the shuttle to leave at 10 a.m. instead of 9:30 a.m.
Delays worsened when Endeavour had to move through the "amen corner" of the route--navigating an extremely tight section of Crenshaw Drive, bounded on each side by apartment buildings.
Crews were forced to stop Endeavour while they studied a Chinese elm that threatened to clip the orbiter's right wing. Officials contemplated cutting down the tree but instead inched the transporters toward the opposite side of the street, raising a back wheel to clear a curb.
As the shuttle moved onto Crenshaw Boulevard, problems continued. The trip slowed to a stop-and-go pace as the orbiter paused several times as trees were clipped farther back and the shuttle squeezed within inches of light and power poles.
At one point, there was a roughly 10-minute delay as movers waited for an LAPD officer to move a parked bomb squad truck blocking the transporter's path.
At Crenshaw Boulevard and 73rd Street, workers had to pause to navigate Endeavour through a tree and utility pole.
The shuttle was supposed to reach Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for a 2 p.m. performance orchestrated by Debbie Allen. At 4 p.m., it had just crept past 63rd Street, about two miles away. The shuttle moves at no more than 2 mph.
The immensity of the shuttle impressed City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who said he thought the shuttle's move so far answered questions community members have had about 400 trees being removed to make way for the shuttle.
"I don't think many people realized the size of the vehicle and so the trees were not cut down indiscriminately, they were cut down for a purpose," Parks said in an interview.
"I think when you look at the overall benefit at having this as a static display in the community it has overwhelming positives," he said.
The long day proved aggravating for some people waiting for the shuttle near Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards, where police at one point closed many of the sidewalks on Crenshaw, forcing onlookers to store parking lots and intersections.
"They have to understand it's for their safety," said LAPD Senior Lead Officer Sunny Sasajima. "The extent of the closures has been kind of tough...folks come a long way for this event."
His edge may be wearing off though.
As he spoke, he saw an elderly woman with a cane and her arm in a sling step onto a forbidden area.
"I got it, I got it," she said, suggesting that she would soon leave.
"How do you yell at people out here trying to be happy?" Sasajima says.
The lengthening delay later caused police to temporarily lift the sidewalk closures, but they warned that they would have to close the sidewalks later.
ALSO:Space shuttle Endeavour 'slipped through the goal post,' official says
--- Kate Mather, Joseph Serna, Andrew Khouri and Angel Jennings in South L.A.
Photo: The space shuttle Endeavour makes its way up Crenshaw Boulevard in
Inglewood on Saturday. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times