When 2017 ended this week, it left behind memories of storms and floods, fires and shootings, political discord and public discontent. The arrival of New Year’s Day brought with it heightened hopes for a less eventful 2018.

So there’s some irony in the new year beginning with the mild emergency of a hard freeze — a weather event touching many parts of the country, including Louisiana.


Roslyn Whitfield, a neighbor who lives near the scene of the double-fatality house fire on 78th Ave. near Pembroke Street, is bundled up for the sub-freezing temperatures as she and others watch Baton Rouge Fire Dept. firefighters continue to work at the scene, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018.

For many Americans beyond the state, the prospect of temperatures in the teens is no big deal. But we’re not so equipped for so dramatic a dip in the mercury here, so the subfreezing temps that arrived this week have created something of a stir.

Luckily, the weather in this first week of 2018 has been frigid but mostly dry, so icy roads haven’t been a problem. Count that as Louisiana’s first piece of good luck for the new year.

In the meantime, the brrrr-isk forecast has brought changes to the local scene. Outdoor pipes sport foam collars, rather like holiday sweaters. Homeowners have also brought in tender garden plants, with some of the botanical refugees now curled in the corners of dens and living rooms with the potted poinsettias and the Christmas tree. Much of the vegetation left to brave the elements outdoors now looks blanched, the cold paradoxically making the yard look burned.


Runners (left) prepare to jump into the freezing waters of the Tchefuncte River as the crowd spectates during the annual "Dip and Dash" New Year's event in Madisonville, La. Monday, on Jan. 1, 2018. Franco's held its annual "Dip and Dash" New Year's event, where runners go from Franco's Athletic Club into the town of Madisonville to dive into the icy cold waters of the Tchefuncte River, where temperatures were near freezing this year.

That’s how nature clears away the old in favor of the new, something this month’s change of the calendar is supposed to be about. Maybe the vivid transformation in the landscape will nudge us to change a little, too, hopefully for the better. The world could use a clean slate.

Chance of light snow possible in New Orleans area overnight, forecasters say

For the lucky among us, the freeze has been a chance to savor a little extra gumbo in the warmth of well-heated homes. For the less fortunate, of course, the low temps have been not only an inconvenience but a threat to life.

Across south Louisiana, officials have set up warming shelters to protect the most vulnerable.

Many of us regard the needy in our midst like figures in a crèche — faces to be considered at Christmastime, dropping from awareness when December ends. But the freeze is a potent reminder that the poor are with us throughout the year, their needs a continuing call to compassion.

As the thermometer plunged, going out for New Year’s this week required a little extra courage — and perhaps a little extra solidarity among the revelers who huddled together for warmth.

Brrrr! Bitter cold spell to stick around through the week; could set historic lows

There are worse ways to start a new year than with such a powerful demonstration of how much we need each other. It’s an idea we should keep close to heart as 2018 unfolds.