Icy roads in Acadiana lead to dozens of accidents on Wednesday

Cooped up since Monday night, some in Acadiana emerged from their homes Wednesday, beckoned by a sun that shined for a while and temperatures that warmed to the mid-30s.

“People are stir-crazy. They want to get out,” Kurt Lacourrege said in downtown Lafayette Wednesday afternoon. “I didn’t get outside yesterday, and I said I was getting out today.”

Others might have ventured out too soon.

By 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office reported 10 accidents caused by vehicles skidding on ice. Capt. Kip Judice said the 10 wrecks eclipsed the total called in on Tuesday.

By 10 a.m., the number of wrecks caused by ice mushroomed to 38 in the parish, including five that occurred in Lafayette, Judice and Lafayette Police Cpl. Paul Mouton said.

State Police Troop I, which covers eight Acadiana parishes, also reported a spike in accidents caused by drivers who drove too fast and hit patches of ice.

“Our call volume has increased greatly,” Trooper 1st Class Stephen Hammons said.

In St. Landry Parish, the Sheriff’s Office Wednesday morning had seven to 10 reports of drivers who spun out, but they were all able to drive off without police assistance, Capt. Megan Vizena said.

A strong winter storm invaded South Louisiana Monday night, freezing roads and shutting down most government, commerce and life outside the home as people stayed inside as temperatures dipped — and stayed — in the 20s before warming Wednesday.

Despite the warming weather — the National Weather Service forecasted temperatures in the 40s and 50s on Thursday — Lafayette Parish school officials have decided to stay closed for one more day, bringing the number of days students have missed this week to three.

Other districts that will remain closed Thursday include Evangeline, St. Landry and Acadia parishes. Officials at the private Episcopal Schools of Acadiana also decided to keep students at home Thursday.

Acadiana school districts that will open Thursday are in Acadia, Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes.

Also opening Thursday will be University of Louisiana at Lafayette at Lafayette, officials announced late Wednesday afternoon.

State and local highway crews and police agencies, meanwhile, worked to keep open as many roads as possible.

In Lafayette Parish, Sheriff’s Capt. Kip Judice said the only remaining closed thoroughfare in the parish was the eastbound lanes of Interstate 10, from the intersection with Interstate 49 in Lafayette to mile post 126.

Judice said, however, that a traffic advisory for all Lafayette Parish roads would begin at dusk Wednesday and end at 10 a.m. Thursday. He said worries remained that overpasses might freeze again in temperatures that were to dip to 21 degrees Wednesday night.

In St. Mary Parish, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Traci Landry said all roads were open. In Iberia Parish, all U.S. 90 overpasses were opened except the eastbound lanes at the Lewis Street overpass, where workers were cleaning an oil spill, sheriff’s Capt. Ryan Turner said.

Few in Acadiana went without power Tuesday and Thursday.

Entergy Gulf States, which serves six Acadiana parishes including Lafayette, Iberia and St. Martin, said 300 customers lost power at different times.

SLEMCO, which has 101,000 Acadiana customers, had 150 customers who had power outages. And Cleco Corp., which has customers in Evangeline, Iberia, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes, had no outages, spokeswoman Robbyn Cooper said.

Cooper said Cleco expected the storm to produce more problems. But there was not an abundance of precipitation with the storm that could have frozen on tree limbs that, weighed down, touched electric lines and caused outages.