National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Effersson said “the big cold” is likely to move through the Baton Rouge area Saturday night when temperatures are expected to dip into the mid 20s, likely prompting a hard freeze warning.
Saturday night's temperatures will follow Friday night's cold snap when temperatures were expected to drop into the high 20s with Effersson predicting that a brisk wind chill would make it feel like temperatures were in the mid-teens.
The latest cold snap prompted utility officials and homeless shelters alike to initiate freeze plans across the Baton Rouge area. Temperatures will feel even more bitter with the wind chill, said Effersson, who is a forecaster with the National Weather Service in its New Orleans, Baton Rouge office.
Effersson warned residents to check on the elderly, cover plants and pipes, and bring pets inside.
“The big things are people, plants and pipes. … That’s what we’re really concerned with,” Effersson said.
The St. Vincent de Paul’s Bishop Ott Shelter Program expanded its bed capacity Friday afternoon for the freezing nights to come in order to house additional men, women and children in its three shelters with overnight accommodations. President and CEO Michael Acaldo said they expect to fill all beds and will make room for emergency cases.
While the temperatures will be back in the mid 50s on Monday, Effersson said, warmer weather won’t be back to stay until the end of the week.
There’s a potential for frozen precipitation in the form of sleet, snow or rain on Tuesday evening, but that is still uncertain, Effersson said. Forecasters in central Louisiana warned Friday morning that rain would slowly transition to freezing rain or sleet and snow mix.
“It’s somewhat of an odd situation where we’re having these longer cold spells, but they’re not record colds," Effersson said. "They’re colder than normal for the winter season.”
After a rash of house fires claimed the lives of nine people and injured at least three others during the first cold snap to hit Louisiana during the first five days of the year, officials with the Louisiana Office of the State Fire Marshal warned residents to keep three feet between any heating source and combustible items. Ovens or open flame sources should not be used for heat, Fire Marshal officials also cautioned.
As residents prepare for yet another cold spell, Entergy warned people to be mindful of gas and electricity usage, saying that electricity usage in the first week in January was 25 percent higher than the same week in 2016, according to an Entergy press release. Company officials said gas usage also cranked up during that time, rivaling the early 2014 Polar Vortex.
Residents are encouraged to seal air leaks, keep thermostats at 68 degrees, conserve hot water, and keep doors and windows closed during the drop in temperature this weekend.
During an extended cold snap earlier this month, officials with Parish Utilities of Ascension Parish had to cut water service unexpectedly Jan. 3 for at least seven hours to more than 3,200 customers in the city, including a hospital, nursing home and dialysis clinic.
The subfreezing temperatures led to lines breaking and high water usage — when residents kept their faucets dripping to avoid frozen pipes — that severely reduced water supplies. A boil water advisory tied to the loss of pressure and wasn't lifted until Tuesday morning.
Ascension Parish officials who run the city of Donaldsonville's water system said Friday they are ready for the subfreezing temperatures this time around.
In a parish statement Friday, officials with Parish Utilities said they have "used the lessons learned from the recent cold spell to prepare." They said water towers in the system are filled and crews are on "full alert."
Winter weather prompted school closures in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, northern Alabama and eastern and southern Arkansas on Friday. Parts of northwest Mississippi are under a winter storm warning Friday and northern Alabama braced for the possibility of a dusting of sleet or snow.