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Snow dusts holiday decorations on Myrtledale during a "Sneaux Day", Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.

Louisiana transportation crews were out in full force Friday, standing by to salt roads while keeping an eye on forecasts of winter weather in parts of the state starting early Monday.

Though there’s still some uncertainty about what conditions an encroaching cold and wet front could bring during the weekend, the National Weather Service predicts parts of south Louisiana, including the Baton Rouge metro, could see a rain-and-snow mixture or sleet.

Conditions for a “wintry mix” are more likely in the northern part of the Florida Parishes and southwestern Mississippi, yet, forecasters say there is still a chance the area may only receive rain.

It’s prompted state transportation crews to treat elevated freeways and bridges that are prone to dangerous ice build-up when they get wet during cold temperatures.

“We’ll do our best to salt them and keep them going as best as we can,” said Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development spokesman Rodney Mallett. “We just don’t like people driving on icy bridges.”

Some areas near Shreveport could see up to 2 inches of snow starting overnight into Monday, according to National Service forecasters there.

The more likely scenario here on Monday is a rain-and-snow mixture or sleet, though there is still some uncertainty for the capital region.

Northern parts of the metro and southern Mississippi could see a few snowflakes, but the likelihood of any accumulation is low, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Efferson in Slidell.

That’s because the ground will likely be warm enough to melt any freezing precipitation, he said. Forecasters also predict only a small window of freezing temperatures between midnight and 8 a.m. on Monday.

“The chances for hazardous driving conditions are minimal to none,” Efferson said. “I don’t think it’ll get quite cold enough at the time we’re getting freezing participation.”

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Icy precipitation can be just as hazardous as accumulating snow for travelers. State officials say they’ll be watching for signs of ice on long bridges, like the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge and the nearly 23 mile-long Manchac Swamp Bridge.

Snowfall in Louisiana is incredibly rare, with the state and its subtropical climate averaging only about 0.2 inches of snow per year. That low instance of snow in the state is rivaled only by Florida and Hawaii.

A perfect storm is needed to produce significant snowfall, and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and humidity make it difficult to see snowfall in Louisiana.

Unlike northern states that keep fleets of snowplows — even in small cities — Louisiana doesn’t have a single one. Instead, it’s simply cheaper to shut down roads, schools and offices during those rare occurrences.

“That would not be a good expenditure of taxpayer money to have a plow that sits in a storage area for three years in a row before you ever use it,” Mallett said.

With seldom frigid days, even minimal snowfall in the past has led to state leaders declaring states of emergency — including the closure of interstates, highways, schools and government offices.

That was nearly the case the last time southern Louisiana saw snowfall in 2017, which led to those types of closures.

State officials urged people to be cautious if on Monday weather conditions deteriorate and roads become slick, as well as warning travelers to avoid unnecessary trips and watch out for emergency crews. 

“It’s important during these weather events for people to take some driver responsibilities,” Mallett said. “Don’t get out if it’s unsafe unless you have to.”


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad