Coldest Mardi Gras reveals reasons to be thankful

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 20, 2021

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We may have missed out on traditional Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras plans this year, but I felt fortunate to be not stuck at home, but safe at home, with all the comforts of a functioning heater and running water.

The amenities we take for granted are the ones that count the most in times of crisis. After withstanding a global pandemic, social unrest and seven hurricane threats in less than 12 months, I don’t think any of us were fully prepared for the challenges that come with historic low temperatures.

In fact, Mardi Gras 2021 broke a 122-year record for the coldest Fat Tuesday. The previous coldest Mardi Gras on record in New Orleans was Valentine’s Day 1899 with a high of 38, a low of 22 and sporadic sights of snow. The wintry mix of precipitation evaded us on the South shore this year, but high temperatures reached only one degree above freezing.

St. John the Baptist Parish residents in Reserve, Garyville and Mt. Airy (Water District 1) experienced water outages Wednesday evening in an effort to maintain emergency capacity after consecutive nights of families dripping faucets. While this is certainly frustrating, it was nothing compared to what many families in Texas endured for more than 36 hours straight. It’s also important to remember the essential workers behind the scenes. In St. John, the Utilities Department worked relentlessly to repair water leaks in 25-degree weather while their clothes were soaking wet.

The last time I remember roads freezing over was three years ago. I drove into work from Destrehan to LaPlace and counted four cars crashed in ditches after I crossed the Spillway Bridge. This time around, my coworkers and I did not have to venture onto the icy roadways because we are fully prepared to work from home.

COVID-19 has been a nightmare, but it’s equipped us to work and communicate outside of an office setting. Local schools were closed for days after the hard freeze of 2018, but these days, students can easily shift to virtual learning when there are issues with AC, heating or water supply at the school sites. Just a few months ago, the pandemic led to St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools becoming a one-to-one district where every child has access to technology at school and at home.

Inclement weather events are not always easy to predict or plan for, especially when existing infrastructure is not equipped to handle overuse and adverse conditions. I expect infrastructure to improve in the future, but it also takes cooperation from the community to limit power and water outages. Let’s be thankful that our forecast for the next week puts us back into the 70s.


Brooke R. Cantrelle is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at 985-652-9545 or