The worst precipitation of this week’s winter storm may have passed New Orleans with relatively little damage, but dangerous driving conditions will persist as freezing temperatures continue through Thursday morning, officials said.
“This is the word of the day: ice,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “It’s dangerous.”
Temperatures will rise above freezing between 1 and 5 p.m. Wednesday, Landrieu said, but then plunge back into the 20s. Above all, Landrieu repeatedly urged drivers to stay off the roads unless it is absolutely necessary, with dangerous icy patches still remaining.
School officials are still determining whether their facilities are ready for the return of students, said OPSB Superintendent Stan Smith. No decision has been made on whether schools will be open Thursday, but officials expected to make an announcement by 3 p.m., Smith said.
New Orleans police responded to 59 accidents overnight, 24 of which were related to the weather, Landrieu said. One car skidded into Bayou St. John on Wednesday morning, he said. Employees are sanding the Broad Street overpass Wednesday morning, Landrieu said.
NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas praised New Orleanians for staying off the roads Tuesday evening. The 59 crashes reported were actually fewer than the department would respond to on a normal night, Serpas said.
Emergency shelters were full with 729 people in shelters overnight, and Landrieu said officers with the NOPD Sixth District personally walked under the Pontchartrain Expressway, urging people to come inside.
“They convinced a lot of people to get out of harm’s way last night, and I believe really saved lives,” Landrieu said.
The storm passed without major interruptions to electrical services, and no significant outages remained in Orleans Parish by late Wednesday morning, said Entergy CEO Charles Rice. Depending on how conditions develop, Entergy may release the extra resources it brought in for the storm, Rice said.
Streetcar service remains suspended Wednesday morning, but buses are running, RTA officials said. There may be delays because of the road conditions, and some lines — including the 16 line on South Claiborne and the 27 bus on Louisiana Avenue — are experiencing detours.
When these sorts of incidents wind down, people pay less attention, and accidents start to happen, Landrieu said.
“We’re not out of the woods. I know it looks like things are getting a bit better, but again there’s a lot of ice still out there.”