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Dozens of crashes reported locally during snowfall

LAPLACE — While last week’s rare snowfall event brought joy and excitement to St. John Parish residents, icy roads posed a hazard to motorists not accustomed to winter weather.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office recorded 35 wrecks between Friday and Saturday, according to Traffic Director Elton Foret.

Louisiana State Police Troop B Public Information Officer Melissa Matey said wrecks occurred on the elevated portion of Interstate 55 between LaPlace and Manchac prior to the road’s closing.

Between 6 a.m. Friday and 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Louisiana State Police Troop B monitored roads and responded to 16 crashes within Parish lines, according to Matey.

She said the Louisiana State Police typically respond to 30 to 70 crashes per day across a six-parish area, and while icy conditions caused some of the wrecks, Matey said the number of collisions documented was not exceedingly out of the ordinary.

St. John the Baptist Parish Communications Manager Baileigh Rebowe Helm wants to thank residents for heeding precautions by staying off roadways and sharing information posted by the Parish.

“Our main goal is to protect citizens and keep them safe so that we can continue enjoying the December weather and holidays,” Helm said.

She said any resident not signed up for emergency cell phone, email and text notifications can do so by calling 985-652-9569 or visiting sjbparish.com and clicking “Stay connected.”

“These alerts are free and can be critical in times of emergency,” Helm said.

Elevated roadways should be approached with caution amid winter weather conditions because black ice can go unnoticed by motorists, according to National Weather Service representative Alec Krautmann.

He compared bridges and other elevated areas to Yeti cups that keep beverages cool because each has a layer of air acting as insulation. Air flowing through space under an elevated roadway has the same effect as the pocket of air between layers of metal in the cups, he said.

As temperatures rise, St. John residents are sure to remember last Friday as one of the rare instances of snow in Southeast Louisiana.

The last true snow in St. John the Baptist Parish took place Dec. 11, 2008, followed by a weather event leaving a trace amount of snow on Dec. 4, 2009 and freezing rain and sleet occurring over multiple days the last week of January 2014.

While nearby parishes saw as many as 4 to 5 inches Friday, St. John Parish received about an inch of snow.

Krautmann said it’s impressive and unusual for St. John to receive any amount of snow because of its proximity to lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

“Even during the winter months, these lakes remain pretty warm with temperatures in the 50s,” Krautmann said.

He noted temperatures hovered above freezing throughout the parish, averaging around 36 to 38 degrees, and the much cooler atmospheric air is what allowed flurries to form.

“It’s certainly a possibility to have it happen again,” Krautmann said. “Remember to watch the forecast and take note of safety precautions.”