Region Begins To Stir From Icy Hold, But Danger Remains
The City of New Orleans and the metro region have begun to emerge from the winter storm that forced a near-complete shutdown of everything from airports to roads to restaurants, according to a city press conference held Wednesday morning.
Officials say we’re not out of the woods just yet, as dangerous winter weather continues to grip the region and already-freezing or near-freezing temperatures are expected to plunge again this evening.
The National Weather Service has canceled the Winter Storm Warning as precipitation has moved offshore, but a Hard Freeze Warning is in effect through 9 a.m. Thursday morning. High cloud cover and freezing temperatures will keep many roads impassable, or close some roads that have reopened.
“We are continuing to lean forward, to monitor our weather, and take proactive steps to protect life, safety and health,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who advised residents to stay off the roads. He said the time after a severe weather event is when many injuries occur.
Watch the complete press conference:
The New Orleans Police Department responded to 59 accidents over the previous 24 hours, according to the mayor and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. That is an average number of accidents for a single day in the city, but half of those were attributable to winter conditions. 24 accidents required EMS or DOTD response, and two cars ended up in the water, including one in which a driver swerved to avoid a pedestrian and ended up in Bayou St. John.
The city’s 311 line received 441 calls in the past 24 hours.
Emergency shelters provided refuge from the cold for 729 people last night, Landrieu said. Health Department workers and city managers walked the streets to convince people to take shelter.
Orleans Parish public school officials, from both the OPSB and the RSD, are currently reviewing facilities and plans, and will make a decision on whether to reopen schools by this afternoon. The priority is ensuring safe transportation to and from schools, the officials said.
Entergy says they may begin ramping down their response effort, as there have been no current reported outages in Orleans Parish. Entergy says they have 1,000 employees on the ground in the area.
The state Department of Transportation and Development says they have been working around the clock to keep major arteries and bridge crossings open, including US 11 and US 90. They are working to reopen the Interstates.
Iftikhar Ahmad of the Louis Armstrong Airport says only five flights have been scheduled to arrive before noon Wednesday. The airport usually has approximately 260 flights a day. Travelers are urged to contact their airlines directly for more information.
RTA streetcar service is still suspended, says CEO Justin Augustine, but all system bus routes are open. There are some detours, however; riders are urged to check the RTA website for more information, or call (504) 248-3900, and can expect delays on some routes.
The New Orleans Fire Department responded to a single fire last night, said Superintendent Timothy McConnell. It was caused a by a space heater. McConnell said this isn’t a time for residents to let their guard down.
“We’re not finished yet,” said Landrieu. “We’re still in harm’s way.”
This post has been updated with full video of the press conference.