NEW ORLEANS (AP) – At least two people have been killed and one person critically injured in weather-related traffic accidents along icy Interstate 10 in southern Louisiana, where state police say they have worked more than 200 accidents in the frigid weather.
State police Capt. Doug Cain urged people to stay off the roads if possible Friday. He said stretches of I-10 remained closed Friday afternoon as freezing precipitation fell.
Some state lawmakers heading to the Capitol to hear the governor’s budget recommendations Friday had to take back roads. And they wrapped up work quickly to head home before conditions worsened.
Earlier Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency, authorizing state government departments to take any necessary measures to deal with the frigid weather. The action expanded an emergency order Jindal signed a day earlier to allow for the uninterrupted delivery of propane and heating fuels.
The 24-mile-long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway was closed much of the day. It reopened early in the afternoon but was closed again for a time after a crash. Elevated portions of Interstate 49 through Alexandria and a stretch of I-10 westbound between Baton Rouge and New Orleans also were closed, as were numerous other icy bridges and overpasses in southern parishes that rarely have to deal with icy weather.
“As soon as it’s safe to do so we’re going to open as much as we can,” Cain said.
Light freezing rain and sleet remained in the forecast for Friday evening in much of southern Louisiana. The weekend was expected to bring a break from freezing temperatures for the southern part of the state, although another freeze was a possibility early next week.
Friday’s first weather-related fatality was reported between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Friday in the Lake Charles area. State police said a driver lost control of a vehicle on an icy Interstate 10 overpass. That driver was killed when the car was struck by another vehicle.
Shortly after 5 a.m. in Jefferson Davis Parish, a woman lost control of her vehicle on an I-10 overpass. She was killed when an 18-wheeler struck her vehicle, Sgt. James Anderson said.
Cain said two other fatal traffic accidents occurred Friday but they were not believed to be weather-related.
McNeese State University in Lake Charles and Southeastern Louisiana University at Hammond closed, and classes at all of Northwestern State University’s campuses were canceled Friday. They were to resume Monday, officials said.
LSU at Alexandria and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette were also closed Friday.
State offices were closed Friday in the following parishes: Acadia, Allen, Ascension, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis, Evangeline, Rapides, Vernon, Pointe Coupee, West Feliciana, West Baton Rouge, Iberville, St. Martin, St. Landry, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Mary, Vermilion, Grant, Catahoula, East Baton Rouge, Jackson, LaSalle, Livingston, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, St. Helena, Winn, Concordia, East Feliciana, DeSoto, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington.