Rain brings out the umbrellas at Jackson Square in front of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter in New Orleans on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2017. Cold conditions are expected in the New Orleans area on Friday with snow possible on the north shore.

Advocate staff photo by MAX BECHERER

The New Orleans area began bundling up Thursday in expectation of near-freezing temperatures overnight and the possibility of snow in some areas of the north shore.

Some public schools and government offices will be closed Friday on the north shore and in the River Parishes. 

But while forecasters said the New Orleans region will largely see a dreary mix of cold rain, sleet and perhaps some snow, Baton Rouge was bracing for icy roads Friday and a hard freeze over the weekend.

Gavin Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Slidell, said the New Orleans area was expected to see temperatures in the low to mid-30s Thursday night and Friday night, with some areas dipping below freezing Friday night.

Colder temperatures are expected in areas farther away from Lake Pontchartrain’s moderating effects.

Up to an inch or two of snow or sleet is possible in northern St. Tammany Parish, and there may be some accumulation in other areas, particularly on elevated surfaces and grassy areas.

The area is expected to warm up on Saturday before another chill on Sunday, when temperatures are expected to get down to the upper 20s in some parts of the New Orleans area, Phillips said.

Parishes across the metro area were also preparing in case roads need to cleared of ice or snow.

New Orleans Homeland Security Director Aaron Miller said the city's Department of Public Works and the state Department of Transportation and Development were ready with trucks of sand to deal with icy conditions.

In Jefferson Parish, Emergency Management Director Joe Valiente said his office was monitoring weather conditions.

"If the temperatures dip below freezing on the south shore, some roadways could begin icing, especially on elevated proportions of the I-10 and bridges," Valiente said in a news release. "This is likely to occur during the early morning hours on Friday, thus affecting the morning commute.”

Motorists were urged to begin their commutes earlier, allowing for delays due to potential roadway hazards Friday and possibly into Saturday.

New Orleans officials urged residents to make sure that space heaters were in good condition to avoid fires and to check their carbon monoxide detectors.

New Orleans’ citywide freeze plan remains in effect to provide extra housing spaces for homeless people through Saturday morning. Available shelters are the Salvation Army, 4530 S. Claiborne Ave.; Ozanam Inn, 843 Camp St.; Covenant House, 611 N. Rampart St.; and the New Orleans Mission, 1130 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.

More than 400 people took shelter at those locations Wednesday night, about 77 percent of the available capacity, Miller said.

The winter weather also prompted school closures in some suburban parishes.

Public schools will be closed Friday in St. Tammany, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes. Catholic schools will be closed in St. John, St. Tammany and Washington parishes.

The Orleans Parish School Board did not call for a blanket closure of schools, though some individual schools may close.

St. Tammany Parish government offices will also be closed.

The parish added that "STAR Transit, Camp Salmen Nature Park, Kids Konnection Playground and the Tammany Trace will close as well. The Holiday of Lights events is canceled Friday but is scheduled to resume on Saturday."

Staff writers Jeff Adelson, Chad Calder and Nick Reimann contributed to this report.