weather

Temperatures in Orleans Parish are expected to drop to at or near freezing on Thursday night, prompting the City of New Orleans to put its freeze plan for the homeless into effect.

The freeze plan is enacted whenever the temperature or the wind chill factor is expected to fall to 35 degrees or lower. Temperatures near freezing, combined with the strong winds affecting the region, can cause serious medical problems to people exposed to them for extended periods of time.

The City of New Orleans activated its Freeze Plan for the homeless today, in advance of wintry weather that will affect the region Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Weather forecasts indicate temperatures and wind chill factors will dip to 35 degrees or lower on the nights of Nov. 27 and 28, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office said in a press release. Since exposure to near freezing temperatures and strong winds can cause serious health problems, the city will assist local institutions in providing shelter free of charge.

Heavy rains in southwest Louisiana are flooding land and keeping some farmers out of the fields.

Calcasieu Parish County Agent Jimmy Meaux tells The American Press that although sugar cane harvesting is through in most areas, rice and soybean farmers are being kept from preparing their fields for the planting season.

Most farmers spend January and February getting fields in shape for spring planting, which can begin as early as March, he said.

As rain followed rain in south Louisiana, the president of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association saw a good chunk of his crop swim over the levees around his ponds while fish swam in to feast on those remaining.

David Savoy of Church Point says rains since last week have overtopped the levees in about 35 percent of his 1,700 acres of ponds. But he says those are his most low-lying ponds, which also tend to be the most productive.

Utility companies reported thousands of power outages scattered around Louisiana as a cold front brought morning storms and colder temperatures to the state.

Entergy electric power companies reported more than 17,000 without power Thursday morning. Cleco in central Louisiana had more than 6,000 without power as of 9 a.m.

This year's hot and humid weather could make this one of the worst lovebug seasons in years in south Louisiana, bug experts said.

Lovebugs, so called because of their tendency to fly attached to one another while mating, are a big problem for the exteriors of vehicles and structures, LSU AgCenter agent Barton Joffrion tells The Courier.

The insects' scientific name is Plecia nearctica, but they're also called march flies, lovebugs and united bugs.

National Hurricane Center

Forecasters say a hurricane watch has been extended to include the New Orleans metro area as Tropical Storm Isaac makes its way toward the Florida Keys.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sunday morning that the watch area now stretches from east of Morgan City, La., to the Florida Panhandle.

Forecasters have said that Isaac could be a dangerous Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall over the northern Gulf Coast. That is expected to happen sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

National Hurricane Center

MIAMI — Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches the state.

Scott said the goal was to make sure every local, state and federal agency "has the exact same information" on the storm and preparations in order to make informed decisions. He issued the state of emergency Saturday during a media briefing in Broward County.

With about 55 percent of the continental U.S. suffering from "moderate to extreme drought" conditions the nation is withering under conditions that haven't been this bad since 1956, according to a new report from National Climatic Data Center.

The National Weather Service has issued an alert for New Orleans East and upper St. Bernard Parish, due to a cluster of strong, slow-moving thunderstorms affecting the area.

The storms, located northeast of Chalmette, are moving to the northeast at approximately 5 mph, and packing frequent lightning and wind gusts up to 35 to 45 mph, according to the Weather Service.

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