South Louisiana awoke Friday to closed schools, offices and major highways as ice and snow created treacherous driving conditions in many areas.
It was the kind of morning where if the defroster wasn’t on high enough, the moisture began freezing to the windshield.
Ice quickly formed on roads, causing dozens of crashes and prompting the closure of roads in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas as well as East Baton Rouge Parish government offices and LSU. Further east, Louisiana State Police announced that the northbound lanes of I-55 are closed north of I-10 due to ice.
Governor Bobby Jindal Friday morning declared a state of emergency as a result of the extreme cold weather conditions. On Wednesday evening, he hadissued a state of emergency related to the transportation and delivery of propane and heating fuel products due to extreme cold weather.
The emergency declararation states, “State offices have been closed in thirty-eight parishes and schools in thirty-seven parishes have been closed due to the hazards posed by this extreme winter weather, and these winter weather conditions threaten the lives and property of the citizens of the State of Louisiana.”
Baton Rouge police were asking morning drivers to stay home if possible because of severe road conditions in the area. Road closures as of 8 a.m. included the new Mississippi River bridge in both directions, I-110, 1-10, I-12, Plank/Blount Road in both directions and Airline Highway/Florida Boulevard overpass in both directions because of ice on the road.
The Sunshine Bridge also was closed in both directions.
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden announced Friday morning that city-parish offices would be closed Friday and asked residents to use the “buddy system” to check on elderly, disabled, friends and neighbors.
Garbage, trash and recycling will not be collected Friday in East Baton Rouge Parish authorities reported. Garbage pickup that was scheduled for Friday will be made up on Tuesday and recycling collection will resume on the next regularly scheduled recycling day. The North Landfill is closed to all haulers Friday but is scheduled to reopen Saturday.
LSU also announced that classes and events would be cancelled Friday although essential staff should report to work. LSU Childcare and the LSU Lab School are also closed Friday.
Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond and Baton Rouge Community College were also closed.
One area school system that did open on Friday — St. James Parish — closed soon not long after students arrived at their schools. School officials announced shortly before 10 a.m. that, “Due to declining weather conditions, all St. James Parish Schools will be dismissed and closed immediately.
Most Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport flights were operating Friday morning, according to airport officials. Although some Houston flights were delayed or cancelled, afternoon Houston flights are currently set to operate. Passengers are asked to contact their airline or check the airline’s website to confirm their flight status.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, also closed its offices for all non-essential personnel because of weather and road conditions.
In Ascension Parish, the Sheriff’s Office reported road closures on Interstate 10 including east and westbound at La. Hwy. 30 (exit 177), La. Hwy. 22 (exit 182) and U.S. 61 Airline Hwy. (exit 187).
The Port Vincent bridge between Livingston and Ascension was also closed.
The National Weather Service reported Friday that the weather event will likely continue longer than expected since the moisture in the area will be around most of the day which could bring light sleet and light snow. The National Weather Service extended the winter weather advisory until 6 p.m Friday.
The temperature at 8 a.m. was 27 degrees and wasn’t expected to rise much during the day with a high of 34 degrees.
Freezing rain and sleet were likely before 1 p.m. and it was expected that total ice accumulation of .1 inch was possible. For the evening, the forecast calls for a chance of freezing rain and sleet before 8 p.m. and then a chance of rain or freezing rain before 11 p.m. although no accumulation was expected.
“Please stay abreast of this situation throughout the day as this is a very fluid situation that is unfolding across the region,” according to the National Weather Service’s morning forecast.
“Baton Rouge Police are working a lot of traffic crashes and there are multiple road closures throughout the city,” Baton Rouge police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said. “Police are asking the morning drivers to stay at home if at all possible due to the severe road conditions. Responding officers are doing their best to get to these crashes as quickly and safely as possible.”
McKneely said Baton Rouge police responded to at least 49 crashes between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. Friday.
“The roadways opening and closing is constantly changing due to sand being placed on overpasses and roads clearing, so it’s hard to keep up,” McKneely said.
Casey Rayborn Hicks, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, said deputies had worked seven crashes as of about 11:30 a.m. State Police, meanwhile, had worked at least 36 crashes in the Baton Rouge metro area.
Louisiana State Police reported at 4:36 a.m. the closure of all I-10 ramps at La. 1 and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced the closure of I-10 West from Ramah to Lafayette, on the Basin Bridge, due to icy conditions.
In the Acadiana region, DOTD announced the following road closures:
In Acadia Parish, the John N. John overpass (US 90) in Crowley is currently closed.
In Lafayette Parish, the Billeaud Overpass in Broussard is currently closed to traffic, U.S. 90 westbound at Ambassador Caffery is closed to traffic and the Vermillion River bridges at Surrey Street and Camellia Boulevard have been closed due to icing.
In Iberia Parish, U.S. 90 overpass over La. 88 near Coteau is closed.
In St. Landry Parish, I-49 North is closed to traffic, from US 190 north to LA 29 due to icy road conditions and snowfall.
In St. Martin Parish, the 1-10 Atchafalaya Basin Bridge is currently closed to traffic.