After a day and night of freezing temperatures and the infamous "wintry mix" of sleet, freezing rain and snow flurries around south Louisiana, the National Weather Service has canceled the winter storm warning. City officials regrouped this morning with updates and a report from the day's rare weather events — with a warning that icy conditions and a hard freeze warning will last until 9 a.m. tomorrow. An update on school, government and road closures is expected by 3 p.m. today.
"The sun will not be out to melt the ice," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. While temperatures are expected to rise slightly from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., they'll plunge again tonight, and today's cloud cover won't help melt any ice on roads and bridges. Landrieu and other officials warned residents to stay off the roads. "Take the risk if you like, but the risk is very, very high," Landrieu said.
The New Orleans Police Department responded to 59 accidents last night, 24 of which required EMS attention. Two accidents involved cars swerving into waterways to avoid pedestrians. The New Orleans Fire Department responded to one fire, started by a space heater. NOFD chief Timothy McConnell once again warned residents to use space heaters in well-ventilated areas.
Area shelters helped more than 700 people escape the cold last night. The city has reactivated its freeze plan for the homeless.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport director Iftikhar Ahmad said some flights are departing but to check with airlines before heading to MSY — and to use Airline Highway as an alternate route to the airport.
"We're not finished yet," Landrieu said. "We're still in harm's way, according to the National Weather Service."
Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials urge New Orleans to stay indoors today and possibly tomorrow or through Thursday as a winter storm of freezing rain and sleet heads south. Officials say weather will hit at 2 p.m. this afternoon.
"Residents must be prepared for what is definitely coming our way," Landrieu said. "Two things are going to happen today: it's going to get colder, and it's going to get wet."
Officials warned drivers to stay of the roads unless it's an emergency as ice falls from trees and powerlines and develops on roads. "Don't let the conditions right now fool you," said New Orleans Police Department chief Ronal Serpas. "Rain, ice and standing ice are on the way."
All flights out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport are canceled today and possibly tomorrow. The last flight of today left at 11 a.m. Airport director Iftikhar Ahmad said they hope to resume flights Thursday.
Below is a recap of the city's response with a list of numbers and contacts:
An arctic cold front is on its way bringing with it northerly winds, freezing rain, sleet and possibly snow over the next two days, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Mayor Mitch Landrieu has issued a declaration of emergency to prepare for the worst.
For up-to-the-minute news on New Orleans emergency services, go to ready.nola.gov or follow @NOLAReady on Twitter.
Here's the city's official statement, complete with emergency numbers, safety tips and possible road and bridge closures.
Roads and bridges will be icy, and the NWS is cautioning drivers to be cautious driving, or notto drive at all. Power outages will also be a possibility in areas where ice accumulates. Entergy New Orleans says potential outages could last between three to five days.
New Orleans City Hall will be closed for the next two days, as will city services and libraries. Jefferson Parish government offices and libraries will be closed Tuesday. Schools in Jefferson and Orleans Parish, including both the public schools and the RSD, are closed.The bus will replace streetcar routes. All Audubon Institute attractions are closed tomorrow.
Flights in and out of New Orleans could be canceled over the next two days. Check with your airline.
"Like Odell Beckham Jr. this weekend's weather is all over the place! On Friday we'll have highs near 80 with mostly cloudy skies and a decent chance for scattered showers. That chance goes up on Saturday, as a cold front passes through, making for a wet Saturday. Temperatures will then plummet behind the front, as the wind picks up. Sunday will be partly cloudy, dry, but very cold thanks to a strong north wind. And speaking of Odell, plan on showers in Baton Rouge."
"Folks that are planning to head out to the Holy Name of Jesus Gator Fest this weekend are in store for some nice weather! Friday evening will be cool and breezy, with temps falling into the 50s. Make sure to grab a jacket. Saturday and Sunday look very pleasant with afternoon highs in the 70s and a small chance for showers on Sunday. Get out and enjoy yourself some Gator Fest!"
"In general, the weekend looks like a wonderful fall showcase, but there are a few details to point out. Some showers are still possible early Friday afternoon, but the rest of the weekend will be dry. Voodoo goers should plan on a soggy ground for Friday and outside of the hours 11AM-4PM, some cooler temps, especially at night. If you're planning on being there overnight, bring a jacket. Don't say I didn't warn ya!."
"The jam packed festival month continues, with a headliner this weekend of The 2013 Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival. A cool front will drop temperatures finally into the 70s... which, well, about time! Rain chances look lower on Friday and Sunday, but the first half of Saturday has a better threat for showers. Overall though we will have clouds with the occasional break of sunshine. I'm just glad we will get a break from the heat for the first real time this year!"
It is said that the majority of Louisiana festivals take place in October, because the weather is usually quite perfect. Heck, this weekend is Gretna Fest, my friend Andrew's favorite festival of the year!
Which is why I'm troubled to announce that the forecast for this weekend includes rain and a possible tropical system. Where the tropical system goes will obviously play a large role in the forecast, but it's safe to say right now that Saturday looks fairly wet, and Friday will see some spotty rain too. A cold front Sunday will help clear things out, with spotty morning showers and cooler air Sunday night.
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