With near-record low temperatures predicted for Tuesday morning, St. Mary Parish is bracing for a bitter cold that the area isn’t used to dealing with.
Kent Kuyper, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service, said Morgan City should see a low of 22 Tuesday with gradual warming into the 40s during the day. This morning’s low for the city was 30 degrees, he said.
Wednesday continues the warming trend with a low of 28 and a high predicted to be in the mid to upper 50s, Kuyper said.
However, the record for St. Mary Parish of 19 degrees for tonight into Tuesday will not be reached. It was achieved in 1974, Kuyper said.
No precipitation is expected until Friday, he added.
The National Weather Service’s hard freeze watch for the area indicates the cold temperatures are from arctic air settling over the area. The watch is in effect until 10 a.m. Tuesday.
As of 10:30 a.m., schools were to be open Tuesday, scheduled to be the first day back from Christmas break, according to Keith Thibodeaux, St. Mary schools assistant superintendent.
The state will have sand ready in the event any bridges freeze. Due to moisture in the air, bridges could freeze over and be treacherous, Duval Arthur, St. Mary Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness director, said Thursday.
“It’s colder on top of the bridge than it is down below. So we’re concerned about that,” Arthur said.
While precipitation is not expected, roadway conditions depend on moisture in the air. Like vehicles can have frosted windows without rain, dew or condensation on bridges can freeze and create slippery conditions, Arthur said.
Regardless, “we’ll definitely have one bridge open,” Arthur said, referring to the La. 182 and U.S. 90 bridges across the Atchafalaya River.
Arthur advised parish residents to make sure they cover their plants, wrap outdoor pipes and make sure their pets are taken care of.
“We always need to warn people about space heaters and generators. We have people that run generators for heat not realizing they’re filling their house up with carbon monoxide,” Arthur said. “Heaters burn off oxygen, and if you don’t have a fresh air vent somewhere, you could have problems if you have an open flame.”
In addition to wrapping pipes, Arthur suggested residents whose homes are raised off the ground drip their water faucets during freezing temperatures.
Parish emergency preparedness officials are working with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and other parish agencies to put sand or barricades on bridges or highways if the need arises.
Teche Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Sabrina Roy said that while the hospital has not seen any cases of hypothermia or other temperature-related illnesses yet, there has been an uptick in incidences of flu, even in people who received the flu shot.
Wash your hands and those of children with antibacterial soap, she said, noting that staying huddled up indoors, especially with children, aids the spread of sickness.
With the plummeting temperatures, Roy said medical professionals advise wearing hats and scarves to protect the head and ears, especially those of children.
Also, she said, avoid water, even cases such as a heated pool; and don’t go outside wet or with wet hair, she said.
“We’re fortunate it’s (predicted to be) a dry cold, so they don’t foresee too many accidents because it doesn’t get really slick and icy,” Roy said.
St. Mary Outreach Executive Director Kay Raymond said Thursday her organization had not heard of any local places providing shelter for those in need, but will try to help anyone who comes into St. Mary Outreach get a room at a motel. They should arrive at St. Mary Outreach before 4 p.m. for possible placement.
“I can’t guarantee that they can. It depends on whether or not (hotels) have the occupancy,” Raymond said.