'It's a nightmare out here' on Louisiana's icy roads

Road conditions expected to improve ahead of weekend warmup

There may no longer be sleet and freezing rain falling from the skies over Baton Rouge Wednesday, but roads in the area including interstates through town remain problematic.

“It’s a nightmare out here,” said Capt. Doug Cain, Louisiana State Police spokesman.

As soon as the sun came up, he said Troop A, which covers East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes, has been responding to numerous crashes in the area.

“It’s so bad that tow trucks can’t even get traction,” Cain said. “We’re just leaving cars in the ditch.”

Troop A is just trying to keep up, he said.

Not only is there still ice on the main roadways, but there’s still ice on surface streets as well, making driving dangerous. Road conditions are not likely to improve greatly until temperatures warm up on Thursday since another freezing night is forecast.

“What does thaw out is going to freeze tonight,” Cain said.

The potential for continued icy roads prompted the Baker School System to announce Wednesday that schools would continue to be closed Thursday. Pointe Coupee and East and West Feliciana, West Baton Rouge, Assumption Parish, Central, Tangipahoa, and Zachary schools also will be closed Thursday.

The Capital Area Transit Authority will continue suspension of bus service until 11 a.m. Thursday.

Driving could remain hazardous throughout the day as temperatures are only supposed to creep above freezing briefly this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Cain said that 36-37 degree temperatures are not warm enough to thaw out many of the roadways, including Interstate-10, which was closed from New Orleans to Lafayette.

East Baton Rouge city-parish officials agreed Wednesday morning that road conditions in many parts of the parish are in “worse shape today” than Tuesday.

Mayor President Kip Holden said a decision will be made by 4 p.m. Wednesday about whether city-parish offices will be reopened Thursday.

He said the decision will hinge on whether road conditions will be safe.

EMS officials said they have received several calls from people slipping in their lawns or driveways because of ice on the ground and urged residents to use caution.

Officials also asked that residents stop calling 911 to ask for a list of road closures. Drivers can call 389-2100 for updated road closure information or Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development at 511.

City-Parish Public Works Director David Guillory said his staff continued to use de-icing chemicals on the roadways. He said while it has been helpful, the chemical agents are not “100 percent fool proof,” especially on bridges.

He said the city-parish bought 3,000 gallons of the chemicals Tuesday and spent around $30,000, but Guillory said supplies are limited and Baton Rouge is competing with other agencies like the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

William Daniel, chief administrative officer for Holden, advised that if any part of a road is elevated, it’s likely closed.

After reaching a low of 23 degrees overnight, the temperature only warmed up to about 31 degrees by noon in Baton Rouge and is expected to stay below freezing for a good part of the day. Bridges and elevated roadways stay about two or three degrees colder than the air temperature, so even when the temperature in the area rises above 32 degrees, the bridges and elevated roads will likely maintain their ice covering.

The brief time temperatures are above freezing Wednesday afternoon may not be enough to melt the ice on other roads before the return of sub-freezing temperatures this evening with a low of 22 degrees expected. That combination will likely continue to make traveling on the roads dangerous with many roads remaining frozen or covered in black ice Wednesday evening.