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Coachella begins . . . now

INDIO, calif. - The welcome mat is out in the desert for the population-doubling influx of music fans attending the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which starts today and pumps millions of dollars into the local economy.

About 80,000 people are expected at the Empire Polo Club for each day of the two-weekend festival, which runs through Sunday, then reprises itself April 19-21. Both weekends are sold out.

During the 2012 festival, the first time it was expanded to two weekends with identical lineups, about 158,000 people came to the Coachella Valley, and the festival took in $47 million, according to Billboard.

"We were happy with the outcome of the music festival last year and had a meeting (Wednesday) morning and said, `OK, let's make this one better,"' said Jim Curtis, Indio's community services manager.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blur and the Stone Roses are today's headliners. Phoenix will be among the top acts on Saturday, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have played the festival twice before, will be the main draw on Sunday.

Coachella and the Stagecoach country music festival -- which is held over the final weekend in April -- have a "huge" economic impact on the Coachella Valley, Curtis said.

"It's a big number for the entire valley, these three weekends. It's the music capital of the world right now," he said.

According to an economic impact analysis done last October by Development Management Group in Palm Desert, the economic impact in the Coachella Valley last year for both festivals was $254.4 million -- $89.21 million to Indio alone.

Indio got about $1.4 million for its general fund "above and beyond any expense incurred by the city," the analysis stated.

Past Coachella headliners include Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Madonna, Prince, Kanye West, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.

The Stone Roses, who are from Manchester, England, will open the festival about 11:40 this morning on the Coachella Stage -- one of six.

Afternoon highs are forecast to be in the upper 80s through Sunday, with winds generally less than 10 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Indio police spokesman Ben Guitron urged people unused to hot weather to dress lightly and drink plenty of water.

For public safety, Indio police officers, along with others from local law enforcement agencies, will work with private security guards paid by Goldenvoice.

"We obviously look for people to obey the rules," Guitron said.

People caught with illegal drugs or who have had too much to drink will be dealt with just as they would be any other day in Indio, he said.

"They need to come and enjoy themselves, rather than spend time with the Indio Police Department and time in the county jail," Guitron said.

Paramedics will be standing by to handle any medical emergencies.

"It's a constant adjustment, a never-ending plan," Guitron said, referring to the logistics of managing big crowds. Recently widened Monroe Street and other street improvements should help keep traffic flowing, he said.

"We're really excited because of street improvements, so as far as traffic we had minimal issues last year. They've done more this year, so we're excited to see how that's going to work out," Guitron said.

Here's a rundown on road closings in Indio:

      -- Avenue 49 between Hjorth and Monroe streets;

      -- Avenue 50 between Madison and Jackson streets; and

      -- Hjorth between avenues 49 and 50 and Madison between avenues 49 and 52 will be closed today through Sunday and April 19-21.

Delays are expected on Washington, Jefferson, and Monroe streets and Highway 111 on those days.

The festival's website is Indio's non-emergency concert hotline number is (760) 541-7800.

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