For the first time in nearly four years, snow fell across the New Orleans region this morning, with flurries reported on the north shore and in the city, Metairie, Kenner, LaPlace and other parts of the south shore. By around 10 a.m., the snow had mostly stopped, replaced by freezing rain in many places, making driving treacherous. By noon, the precipitation had mostly ceased altogether.
By mid-morning, enough snow had accumulated on the ground in some areas to lure children and adults onto their front lawns to build snowmen or have snowball fights. In the city, neutral grounds remained blanketed in white, though the streets generally remained clear as the wet stuff melted upon hitting the pavement.
© John McCusker / The Times-PicayuneCanal street is monochromatic as snow falls Thursday morning.
In Mandeville, where the snow was heavier, lawns were covered with thicker blankets of white fluff as school buses filled with squealing students made the rounds. Children, most seeing snow for the first time Christmas Day 2004, tried to catch flakes in their hands as the buses rumbled along.
Snow in New Orleans is a rarity. The last time it snowed was Christmas 2004; before that, the last snow recorded was in 1989, according to Jim Vasilj, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. Since 1850, snow had fallen in "measurable amounts" rather than traces in the city just 17 times, Vasilj said. Of the 17, today's snowfall was the earliest in the season recorded.
© Eliot Kamenitz/The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Metro area residents woke up to falling snow on Thursday, December 11, 2008.
As much as 6 inches had piled up in Livingston Parish as of 10 a.m., Vasilj said. Similar amounts were reported in Bogalusa and St. Helena Parish, while in Mandeville, between 2 and 3 inches had accumulated, according to Vasilj.
While snow in the Deep South is a pleasant novelty, the weather did cause trouble for some. A handful of schools and universities shut down for the day, bus service was disrupted, and flights at Armstrong International were cancelled or delayed.
Outages were also reported in St. Tammany and Washington parishes, with the majority in the Franklinton area, according to Cleco spokeswoman Robbyn Cooper. Cleo has a total of nearly 7,000 power outages statewide, most of them in Allen, Evangeline, Acadia and St. Landry parishes.
© John McCusker / The Times-PicayuneAngele McClain delights in the snow falling around her lakefront home in New Orleans Thursday morning. Rain turned to sleet which was followed by flurries by 8 am.
The metro area remains under a winter weather advisory for rain mixed with sleet and snow. Several bridges closed due to icy conditions, and numerous accidents were reported, especially on the north shore, because of slick roadways.
There were no road closures or hazardous conditions reported in New Orleans and no accidents on the Causeway Bridge, which is operating with a 45 mph speed limit.
Temperatures today are expected to remain in the 40s throughout the day, but the wind chill will make it feel more like in the 30s. Winds are from the northwest at 15 to 25 miles per our today, shifting to the north tonight.
The winter weather advisory is in effect until noon, but the chance of rain will linger until about mid-afternoon. Lows tonight will be in the mid-30s.
No rain is in the forecast for Friday and temperatures are expected to warm up into the upper 50s during the day, with lows at night in the upper 30s.
Saturday will be significantly warmer, with highs in the low 60s and lows in the 50s.