Second winter storm advances into S. Louisiana

South Louisiana bracing for second, harsher blast of winter weather

The winter storm to hit the Baton Rouge area Tuesday and Wednesday is going to be much worse than what the area experienced last week because there is expected to be more ice and snow accumulation, forcing the closure of many schools and offices.

It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but Baton Rouge residents can expect to see freezing rain, snow and sleet yet again as a new system moves through and starts to impact the area starting early Tuesday morning.

“The biggest difference is the amount of moisture that is going to be associated with this,” said Freddie Zeigler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Slidell office.

Although Baton Rouge saw about a tenth of an inch accumulation of ice with last week’s storm, this one could bring a quarter-inch of ice accumulation.

During a news conference in Baton Rouge on Monday, Gov. Bobby Jindal asked Louisiana residents Monday to stay off the roads during the expected winter blast.

“If you do not need to be on the road ... we strongly encourage you to stay off the roads,” he said.

Jindal warned drivers to expect road and bridge closures, including the twin span between New Orleans and Slidell. The governor said the focus will be on keeping the Sunshine Bridge, the old Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge, the Luling Bridge, the Huey P. Long Bridge in New Orleans and the Crescent City Connection open.

The Plaquemine ferry will remain open around the clock to help travelers cross the Mississippi River. Ferry fees will be waived during the icy road conditions.

Jindal said Louisiana State Police responded to 744 traffic incidents during the bad weather last Friday.

“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he said.

State government offices will be closed in the 45 parishes where the school districts are also closed, he said. State government employees can call (800) 360-9660 or (225) 342-0498 for updated information about office closures.

A winter storm warning is in effect from 6 a.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday with an expectation of ice and snow accumulations across much of south Louisiana. This wintry mix of ice, snow or freezing rain is expected to begin falling as early as dawn Tuesday morning with the heaviest precipitation expected from midday Tuesday into Tuesday night.

“Freezing rain is the biggest issue,” Zeigler said. “Anytime we get over a quarter inch, that’s going to cause problems.”

During the last storm, the icy conditions were credited with causing numerous wrecks as well as forcing the closure of many elevated roads and bridges.

There’s a concern not only that road conditions will deteriorate, but the freezing rain could lead to problems with downed tree limbs and power outages as well, according to the National Weather Service.

“The impact of ice storms is very difficult to predict, but forecasts indicate the approaching weather system could be one of the most challenging the region has seen in years,” Dennis Dawsey, vice president of customer service for Entergy’s Louisiana utilities, said in a press release. “Power outage restoration may extend into 3 to 5 days for some customers, depending on the severity of the damage. Ice storms can pose a significant threat to an electric system, and extreme cold weather can present additional challenges and require a different — and often slower — restoration process.”

Entergy is bringing together more than 2,100 restoration workers in anticipation of possible ice-related outages.

Driving conditions will become hazardous beginning at daybreak Tuesday and could continue that way until sometime Wednesday because temperatures aren’t expected to get above freezing during that time.

This wintry mix will start as freezing rain and then turn to sleet and snow in areas north of the Interstate 10 corridor. A quarter inch of ice is expected in all areas with almost a half-inch in areas south of Lake Pontchartrain including the New Orleans area.

In addition, there could be 1 to 3 inches of snow in areas of southwest Mississippi and nearby Louisiana parishes, but Baton Rouge will likely get up to an inch of snow coupled with cold temperatures.

Starting Monday afternoon, the Baton Rouge Metropolitan airport experienced a number of flight cancellations, mostly for arriving flights in the evening because of weather conditions. Anyone planning to travel on Tuesday should call the airline to check their flight status.

The airport expects that there will be a number of cancellations Tuesday as icy weather descends on the area, according to Jim Caldwell, airport spokesman.

Schools in the area were closed Tuesday with some extending that to Wednesday as well. Garbage, trash and recycling pickup will not occur Tuesday and Wednesday because of conditions expected within the city-parish, according to an announcement from the mayor’s office. The North Landfill will be closed to commercial haulers and the general public Tuesday and Wednesday.

The temperatures will fall to 28 degrees by Tuesday morning and only get up to a high of 32 degrees during the day. Tuesday night will be even colder with an overnight low of 18 degrees expected as people wake up Wednesday morning. Wind chill on Tuesday could be as low as 9 degrees.

The bad news doesn’t stop there. On Wednesday, there continues to be a chance of snow and sleet before 11 a.m. and then a slight chance of snow between 11 a.m. and noon. Temperatures are expected to rise to about 40 degrees, but will plummet again Wednesday night to 23 degrees.

More information about preparing for weather-related problems is available through the Mayor’s Office of Homleand Security and Emergency Preparedness website at www.redstickready.com or through facebook.com/Redstickready.