Last week’s ice storm may not seem all that bad if forecasters’ predictions for colder temperatures and heavier winter precipitation — including the possibility of icy conditions followed by a snowstorm — pan out over the next couple days.
“It looks like it could be a lot worse,” said Gavin Phillips, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Slidell.
Forecasters predict plunging temperatures, a blustery northern wind and wintery precipitation will wreak havoc on much of south Louisiana, including an area stretching from Lafayette to Hammond, for the second time in less than a week beginning late Monday night and continuing throughout Tuesday.
Temperatures probably won’t rise above freezing in much of south Louisiana on Tuesday with the possibility they’ll dip into the low 20s with wind chills likely falling into the low 10s, forecasters said.
The National Weather Service on Sunday issued a winter weather watch — more severe than last week’s winter weather advisory — in anticipation of frigid, possibly icy conditions. Prolonged freezing rain would likely lead to ice coating elevated roads, which happened last week and resulted in hundreds of car crashes across southern Louisiana.
“It appears that we’re in for a very similar-type event like we experienced on Friday,” state climatologist Barry Keim said.
Forecasters predict a harsher cold on the back end of the incoming system that could bring up to 2 inches of snow to a belt-like region, including areas such as Hammond, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. But the type and amount of precipitation that falls depends on various factors, making it difficult to predict, Keim said.
Areas to the north of the belt likely will experience colder temperatures but less precipitation, while southern neighbors will likely see slightly higher temperatures and a greater chance of precipitation, forecasters said.
As for Baton Rouge, “It has a pretty good potential for having the worst of both worlds,” said Phillips, the National Weather Service forecaster, describing how just enough of an incoming arctic blast combined with encroaching Gulf coast moisture could create a snowstorm Tuesday night.
The National Weather Service forecast calls for rain Monday and a wintry mix Tuesday morning, which could evolve into a snowstorm by Tuesday night. Conditions should dry up Wednesday, forecasters said. But temperatures for much of south Louisiana aren’t expected to rise above 40 degrees, which could allow ice to stick around much of the day, especially if cloud cover dulls the sunshine.
A Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development spokesman, Rodney Mallet, said the agency is prepared for a second helping of messy winter weather.
“We will continue to keep major corridors open as best we can,” Mallet said. “But when a road is unsafe, we are going to close it.”
Mallet said trucks can’t spread de-icing agents such as sand and salt too far in advance of a possible storm because wind and motorists likely would disperse them, rendering the agents much less useful.
He also said “all the de-icing agents in the world” couldn’t keep the Mississippi River Bridge open if temperatures drop low enough, especially in the presence of freezing rain.
By the weekend, much of south Louisiana can expect high temperatures in the 70s, said Montra Lockwood, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles.