As a state situated in the southern United States...and near the Gulf of Mexico...winter weather is not typically thought of as a frequent weather hazard. But winter weather...ranging from extreme cold to freezing rain...snow and dense fog...can move across the state bringing property damage...injuries and occasionally resulting in fatalities.
While north Louisiana has the greatest chance of experiencing wintery weather...south Louisiana is not immune to ice storm and cold. Southwest Louisiana experienced a very damaging ice storm January 12 through 14, 1997. The weight of ice accumulations ranging from a half inch to an inch caused tree limbs and power lines to snap. Over 40 000 homes and business lost electric power. Some locations were without power for six days. Icy roadways contributed to automobile accidents which resulted in two highway fatalities. Total damage estimates were near 12 million dollars.
Dense fog over the tidal lakes and marshes of south Louisiana is another weather related danger travelers may encounter during the winter months. Dense fog events may last for several days except for minor improvement in visibilities during the mid-afternoon into the evening hours. Extremely low visibilities created by dense fog has contributed to several large multi-vehicle highway accidents that have resulted in injuries and fatalities. The fog presents the greatest hazard for motorist traveling on elevated roadways over tidal lakes and bays.
The wind chill temperature is how cold people and animals feel when outside. Wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by wind and cold. As the wind increases, it draws heat from the body, driving down skin temperature and eventually lowering the internal body temperature. The updated Wind Chill Formula was implemented in 2001. The new formula uses advances in science, technology, and computer modeling to provide a more accurate, understandable, and useful formula for calculating the dangers from winter winds and freezing temperatures.
Another hazard created by winter cold is the improper use of space heaters and poorly maintained heating systems. These can create a fire hazard and carbon monoxide hazard resulting in injury and fatalities.
Typically the period from late December through early February brings the greatest threat of extremely cold temperatures...ice storms...snow...dense fog and to the bayou state. Now is the time for residents to review winter weather safety measures.
Now is the time to think about winter weather safety tips and develop plans in the event winter weather develops.
Rules are listed below to assist you in your planning.
Check your battery powered equipment and have an adequate supply of batteries available. Ice storms frequently interrupt power and you may have to depend on portable...battery operated radio and tv for weather information.
Check your food supply and have an extra supply on hand. Your supplies should include food that requires no cooking or refrigeration in case of power failure.
Wrap insulation around exposed water pipes to prevent freezing and eventual bursting of water pipes. Know how to shut off water coming into your house in the event pipes do break.
Make sure your home heating system is in good working condition and is adequately ventilated. Be especially careful with regard to placement and ventilation of portable heaters. Poorly maintained heating systems pose a fire hazard as well as a hazard from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Have a working fire extinguisher in your house.
If you plan to travel...check the latest weather information in areas you plan to travel to see if weather conditions are expected to deteriorate.
If dense fog is occurring or forecast to occur, allow extra time to arrive at your destination and reduce speeds to meet the driving conditions encountered.
If you plan extended outdoor activities during the winter...keep up with latest weather forecast. Weather conditions can change rapidly from sunny and mild to very cold with rain...ice or snow. Dress appropriately with layered clothing and hat. Make sure you have appropriate gear or means to stay dry. Be on guard for symptoms of hypothermia when exposed to cold temperatures.
If wintery weather develops, whether it takes the form of extreme cold, ice or snow, make sure you check up on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors, and those in poor health.