By Jaclyn Cosgrove
There’s a common phrase among Southerners about weather: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”
The presumption is that the weather will get nice soon enough. These days, however, for millions of Southerners enduring unexpectedly cold weather, the wait will be much longer than five minutes. Jonathan Kurtz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., said cold air from near the Arctic Circle in Canada came into the Southern region of the United States and stayed for several days, causing lower temperatures than usual across the South. Bitter cold has descended on large portions of the country, clogging rivers with ice, forcing schools to close and freezing a water tower in Iowa. The Midwest and New England are used to temperatures around or even below zero. Not so parts of Georgia, where Tuesday the thermometer read 13 degrees.
The frigid weather will remain a few days, with heavy snow in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. According to the National Weather Service, a quarter-inch of ice and a couple inches of snow are possible Tuesday night and Wednesday from portions of the Florida Panhandle to eastern North Carolina.
Here’s a closer look at Louisiana.
An estimated 200,000 visitors were in New Orleans over the weekend, in part for the Sugar Bowl, and it was sometimes easy to tell the out-of-towners from the locals. “You had some people who came down from the Northeast for the game who weren’t wearing jackets at all — it was 35 or 40 degrees, and they were fine,” said Mark Romig, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., president and chief executive. “They probably thought it was a warm front, and others who are from closer to New Orleans, they pulled out their thickest jackets, scarves and gloves.”
Barry Keim, Louisiana state climatologist, said Louisiana, like much of the Eastern United States, is experiencing an “arctic outbreak,” which is basically the “polar vortex” making a comeback. The jet stream has dipped far south, which creates a highway of sorts for cold air from Canada, causing temperatures to plunge, he said. Louisiana normally sees lows in the mid-40s and afternoon highs in the low 60s.
Currently, temperatures across the state are 20 to 25 degrees below normal. “This is not record-breaking cold, in terms of the coldest we’ve ever seen, but we’re nipping at extremes for specific days,” Keim said. Keim said he’s among the many Louisianans trying to save his plants from the bitter cold. He has employed Christmas lights underneath protective coverings on his outdoor plants, in hopes that keeps them alive.