Hard to tell if it was a record chill
Record lows for this date were broken around the region, but there is no official way to determine whether cities in St. Mary Parish broke records or not.
Robert Deal, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, said Lafayette and Lake Charles both registered a low today of 19 degrees, breaking 1966 records. New Iberia, the closest reporting airport to St. Mary Parish, did not break its 18-degree record low, he said. The low recorded there today was 21 degrees.
The only official records are from five airports, acting as official climate sites, across the region, Deal said. The Patterson airport is not one of them.
Deal did note that this is the coldest it’s been across the region since February 1996.
Ken Perry of Perry Flying Center, the operator at the Patterson airport, said the low recorded there was 21 today, colder than Wednesday’s low of 28 and Tuesday’s low of 27.
While official St. Mary records are unavailable, Perry recalled a reading of 9 degrees on Dec. 23, 1989. The bays and Bayou Boeuf froze and snow coated the area. Temperatures did not rise above the freezing mark for three to four days, Perry said.
“The seaway (at the airport) froze over solid. You could have walked over it,” Perry said.
Measurable snowfall was recorded then and again in 2004, when the Tri-City area received snow on Christmas day.
Going back farther in memory, Patterson resident Butch Felterman, 86, recalled times in the 1930s and 1940s when the Lower Atchafalaya River in Patterson froze.
“We’ve seen some pretty cold weather in the past. There were some days that I remember the Lower Atchafalaya River in Patterson was iced over with a thin layer of ice,” he said.
Shrimp boats from St. John Shrimp Company, owned by Felice Golina, would leave to go shrimping and “leave a trail of open water down the middle of the river,” Felterman said.
Another similar episode occurred when men trying to reach work had to navigate ice on flatboats.
“Back then Mr. LaMule had a boat building operation across the river from the middle of Patterson. There was no bridge at the time. They used flatboats with standup ores. There were times when they had to cross going through thin ice,” Felterman said.
Both freezing events lasted two to three days each, he said.
Mostly, Felterman said he remember pecan trees in particular. Because they have no leaves at this time of year, ice was just hanging from the branches, and “the sun was glistening when it came up and the icicles started melting,” he said.
Deal said temperatures will continue to rise into the mid-50s today with a warming trend into the weekend. Saturday will see highs in the low 70s. Another cold front is forecast for Sunday into Monday but is not predicted to be as strong.