BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Unusually cold temperatures and slippery road conditions prompted officials in the Deep South to urge people to stay home Monday as the winter storms shut down roads, caused dozens of traffic accidents and claimed the life of a Louisiana man who fatally slipped on ice.
A winter storm that brought snow, ice and plunging temperatures across the southern Plains and caused a power emergency in Texas stretched its frigid fingers down to the Gulf Coast. Winter storm warnings blanketed most of Louisiana and Mississippi and extended into parts of Alabama, where forecasters warned of the possibility of ice storms in the northwest corner of the state, according to the National Weather Service.
In north Alabama, authorities responded early Monday to a pileup involving at least 20 cars along a highway near Lacey’s Spring where dense fog and ice covered the roadway, according to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. No severe injuries were reported, the agency said.
Low temperatures were expected to drop into the teens and even single digits in some places overnight and into Tuesday morning, with wind chills making it feel even colder.
The Louisiana Department of Health announced the state’s first storm-related death Monday evening after a 50-year-old Lafayette Parish resident slipped on ice and fatally hit his head on the ground, according to officials. The victim was not immediately identified.
In a news conference Monday night, Gov. John Bel Edwards called the death “very tragic” and said state police also worked more than 150 traffic accidents that resulted in moderate to significant injuries as a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain created treacherous conditions.
Interstate 10 was closed between Baton Rouge and Lafayette on Monday morning after multiple wrecks, including a 14-vehicle pileup, The Advocate reported. In that instance, one vehicle hit a guardrail and created a “domino effect” with other cars sliding into each other because they were unable to stop on the ice, but no one was injured, state police said.
State police spokesman Taylor Scrantz told the newspaper that troopers were having to deal with some drivers who tried to get around barricades to get onto the interstate.
Edwards added that more than 125,000 power outages had been reported across Louisiana, with some areas remaining without electricity for more than 12 hours. He said state agencies had delivered generators to some of the affected areas.
Though many schools, businesses and statewide offices were set to be closed Tuesday to mark a scaled-back Mardi Gras holiday amid the pandemic, the governor urged Louisiana residents to continue to “stay home, stay off the road and don’t go out unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
“This is a very serious emergency and we are going to see another round of winter weather come in,” Edwards said. “We can’t tell exactly when the thaw-out is going to happen and the roads may go from being unsafe to safe to unsafe again so we need everybody to be very mindful of that.”
Slick conditions also plagued Mississippi, where the state Department of Transportation was reporting ice on roads and bridges throughout much of the state. The agency posted photos and video of snowy interstates on Facebook and urged people to stay home so crews can work to clear the roads.
In Georgia, where the National Weather Service predicted precipitation and overnight temperatures dropping into the 20s across the northern part of the state, Gov. Brian Kemp delayed the opening of all state offices by two hours for Tuesday morning. He said the decision was made after consultation with the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and he urged school officials to monitor local conditions carefully.