State of emergency declared as Louisiana could be hit with several rounds of winter weather
Several rounds of potential winter weather could bring snow, sleet and freezing rain to Louisiana, causing Gov. John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency.
In the declaration issued Thursday night, Edwards urged residents to plan accordingly to prepare for the heavy rain and the arctic air that is forecast to sweep through the state.
“Already in Louisiana we have communities that have seen the impacts of flash flooding and water on the roadways, and there is the potential for worse weather and bad conditions as the days go on," he said in a statement. "Now is the time for people to make a plan for the coming days that could include staying at home during severe weather."
What weather to expect in Lafayette
The state could see winter weather — in addition to hard freezes — Saturday morning, Sunday morning and all day Monday, Donald Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, said in a Facebook live.
“It’s very unusual to have one winter weather event across the area, let alone more than one," he said, "but we are looking at several shaping up across the area as we go through the weekend."
The weather comes as a cold front that moved through the area remains southeast of the state. While it stays there, two features are expected to move through the area — one on Friday night that will bring scattered storms and another Sunday night into Monday that is expected to bring widespread shower activity, Jones said.
The winter weather could start Saturday when the wind chill in Acadiana is expected to be in the high-20s. There's a 5-10% chance the area could see freezing rain, snow or sleet late Friday night or early Saturday morning, but it isn't expected to accumulate, Jones said.
Sunday morning there's a 10-30% chance for freezing rain and north of Lafayette there's a 30-40% for freezing rain. There could be light accumulation across parts of central Louisiana, but Jones said he doesn't think it would cause road or electrical hazards.
The wind chill on Sunday in Lafayette is expected to be in the high 20s.
Monday's potential winter weather event could be the most significant as it could produce an accumulation of snow, sleet and ice, but mostly ice, Jones said.
The wind chill on Monday is forecast to be about 12 degrees in Lafayette and in the single digits across central Louisiana. If the wind chill drops below 13 degrees, the weather service will have to issue an advisory, Jones said.
The chance for snow, sleet and freezing rain is 70-80% in Beauregard Parish, St. Landry Parish and across central Louisiana. In Lafayette and around the Interstate-10 corridor, there is a 60-70% chance of the winter weather threat, but the probability is lower, Jones said. He also expects those chances will increase as Sunday night approaches.
Freezing rain is likely to accumulate in central Louisiana all the way down to the I-10 cooridor. While some snow flurries may be seen, Jones said he mostly expects freezing rain.
“It’s important to keep in mind that it doesn’t take much in terms of thickness of ice to really cause a lot of problems," Jones said. “Even just a little bit of freezing rain can cause significant problems across the area."
An accumulation of freezing rain can make it difficult to drive and lead to road hazards. It also can cause electrical outages as it collects on power lines and trees, which could cause them to break.
The National Weather Service in Lake Charles had not issued a winter weather advisory as of Friday evening because Jones said there's still enough uncertainty in the forecasting.
People should avoid unnecessary travel, Louisiana State Police spokesperson Trooper First Class Brent Hardy said in a release. If someone has to drive, they should reduce their speed and increase their following distance. If a driver encounters a skid, they should take the foot off the accelerator and steer into the skid.
How to protect your home, pets from wintery weather
As winter weather approaches, residents should prepare their homes, especially as hard freezes are expected Sunday, Mondy and Tuesday mornings.
Frozen pipes and water damage can be prevented by wrapping exposed outdoor pipes and above-ground pipes under a home with insulation, Lafayette Utilities System Conservation Specialist Garrison Harrison said in an email. Outdoor faucets should be covered.
Home temperatures should be no lower than 55 degrees. Kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors under skinks should be opened to allow heat to circulate, Harrison said.
Pets should be brought inside, the Lafayette Parish Animal Shelter said. Adequate shelter for pets is mandatory by state law and must have three sides, a roof and a solid floor. Dry bedding must be provided in colder temperatures.
Cats are attracted to warm cars. Drivers should tap the hood of their car to alert sleeping animals that may be harmed when the car starts, the shelter said.
When heating a home, residents should ensure safety when using space heaters, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office said. More tips on safely heating a home can be found here.