With temperatures expected to dip below freezing at several points over the long holiday weekend, New Orleans officials on Friday activated the city's freeze plan while urging residents to take caution.
While Friday’s announcement came with familiar warnings, such as bringing pets and plants inside and remembering to check on neighbors, a recent uptick in fires in the metro area has authorities also warning residents to play it safe when it comes to heating their homes.
Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell called the use of alternative heating sources, such as stoves and ovens, “very dangerous,” and urged property owners to take advantage of the city’s free smoke alarm installation program.
McConnell also warned about the dangers of fuel-burning appliances such as propane or butane heaters, which can produce carbon monoxide, and cautioned residents to never leave space heaters on unattended.
Last week’s freeze saw temperatures dip to a low of 25 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 2. National Weather Service forecasters said a cold front would move across the area again starting on Friday and would likely prompt several freeze warnings in coming days.
A freeze warning was issued for the south shore from 9 p.m. Friday until 9 a.m. Saturday, with temperatures expected to dip into the low 30s overnight in the city. Forecasters also predicted wind-chill values as low as the upper teens to low 20s Saturday and Sunday mornings in parts of the area.
On the north shore, temperatures were expected to hover in the upper 20s Friday night and dip to the mid-20s on Saturday night, with highs in the mid-40s on both Saturday and Sunday during the day, according to the National Weather Service.
The city’s freeze plan allows homeless shelters around the city to take in additional overnight guests, which New Orleans officials hope will help avoid fatalities. Starting at 4 p.m. Friday, city shelters started admitting people and planned to continue doing so until Monday morning.
Outreach teams were also actively patrolling the streets in an attempt to bring homeless people to safety. Residents were asked to call the New Orleans Police Department's non-emergency number at (504) 821-2222 to report someone in need of shelter.
Joseph Sensebe, a member of the city’s Sewerage & Water Board transitional management team, said he did not expect any difficulties with water pressure during the freeze but urged residents to drip water from the faucet farthest away from a home’s main water valve to protect water pipes from freezing if the temperature dips to 28 or lower for several hours. The stream of water should be no wider than the lead of a pencil, he said.
The St. Tammany Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, together with the New Orleans Mission, opened a warming shelter Friday for those in need on the north shore. Residents there can find shelter at the Giving Hope Retreat Center of the New Orleans Mission in Lacombe.
For updates on the weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov.