Eyes on the sky

Berwick town workers lay the foundation for an extension of the boardwalk near the Everett S. Berry Memorial Lighthouse Park this morning. Construction began Jan. 13 and is expected to be completed three weeks from today. With freezing temperatures and precipitation forecasted, there is a possibility of icing on the bridges.
(The Daily Review Photo by Courtney Darce)

By Jean L. McCorkle jkaess@daily-review.com

Preparations are ongoing for winter weather due to visit St. Mary Parish tonight and into Friday that has the potential to bring rain and a “wintery mix” of sleet or snow.
As of noon, St. Mary Parish public schools planned to hold classes Friday. A 2:30 p.m. conference call with the National Weather Service will assist the system in making a final determination on whether school will be open Friday, Assistant Superintendent Keith Thibodeaux said this morning.
Check www.stmarynow.com for updates.
Head Start centers are closed in St. Mary and Vermilion parishes, but staff members are to report to work.
Holy Cross Elementary and Central Catholic High schools will be open or closed depending on what public schools decide.
Duval Arthur, Homeland Security director, said his office has given all of the information it has to the school system, Community Action Agency and “anyone who has children in busses. We want them to be safe.”
“Personally, I think we’re going to be far enough east of it that we’re not going to get some really bad weather,” Arthur said this morning.
Stephen Carboni, National Weather Service meteorologist in Lake Charles, said there is a 50 percent chance that St. Mary Parish will see any type of precipitation — rain or a wintery mix — overnight. As the temperatures dip through the evening, Carboni said there is a chance of seeing sleet all the way to the coast.
However, the worry is not from the actual sleet or snow that could fall as they aren’t expected to accumulate. Carboni said temperatures will be cold enough toward Friday morning to allow ice formation on freezing surfaces such as bridges.
“We’re not really expecting totals to be that significant. We do have an advisory out. What that means is it’s going to be more of an inconvenience,” Carboni said, adding that meteorologists are not concerned about ice accumulation for power outages.
The greatest chances for seeing snow will be after midnight, he said, adding that the earliest potential for winter weather begins between 9 to 10 p.m. Friday will be a “raw day” with highs not expected to get out of the mid- to upper-30s.
He added that some model guidance suggests the precipitation could continue into Friday night. If that is the case, Carboni said, temperatures will fall and renew the potential for winter weather.
“For you guys, especially with your proximity to the coast, there’s a lot of things that could go wrong with this forecast,” Carboni said.
The state Department of Transportation and Development office in Lafayette, which oversees St. Mary Parish, said there is not one single indicator that triggers the closure of bridges such as U.S. 90 and La. 182 over the Atchafalaya River.
Deidra Druilhet, DOTD spokeswoman, said the department “wants roads safe for the traveling public. Slippery roadways and accumulations can cause closures until crews can de-ice the roadway,” she said.
Maintenance supervisors will drive routes through the evening as temperatures drop looking for freezing rain or ice. If needed, the department will close overpasses or elevated portions of interstates.
However, they will “do everything we can to keep the interstate system open and remove winter buildup,” Druilhet said.
In the event of roadway closures, maintenance and the opening of traffic routes are based on normal traffic volume, Druilhet said.
She cautioned, in event of winter weather conditions, refrain from driving if possible. If it’s not, allow extra time and drive carefully and slowly, she said. She further encouraged motorists to drive slowly through work zones as crews will be out maintaining the roads tonight.
To determine whether roads are open, there are several methods: Check 511la.org online, dial 511 from any phone, access the Way to Geaux smartphone app or call the state customer service center at 1-877-452-3683 or the district office at 337-262-6100.

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