BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mother Nature pushed the "frozen precipitation" line farther south Thursday morning than the model guidance projected, delivering sleet and even a few wet snowflakes to areas along and south of the I-10/12 corridor. Although there was little if any ground-layer accumulations to be found, many WAFB viewers did capture photos of some sticking sleet and flakes. Most dustings were on windshields, metal surfaces like car hoods, elevated wood porches and on vegetation.
Yet even those were a bit of a surprise! So what happened? Temperatures stayed a few degrees cooler through the day then our guidance suggested, and that was just enough to get the "wet sleet" and pockets of snowflakes down to places as far south as New Iberia.
However, the temperature story over the past 24 hours is really the highlight of the event, with a number of sites reporting 50° temperature declines over a 24-hour window - an exceedingly rare occurrence in our area. We don't have access to the data to assess the event, but we suspect that a 50° drop in temperatures in such a short period has happened a very few times over the past 100 years. We're not ready to say never before, but it's not out of the question.
So as of Thursday evening, the skies were clearing from west-to-east through the evening, setting us up for a very cold night. Some of WAFB's northern viewers were already down to freezing at 6 p.m. and we expect Baton Rouge's Metro Airport to be below-freezing before midnight.
The National Weather Service has issued Freeze Warnings for essentially the entire WAFB viewing area, only the coastal margins of southeast Louisiana are excluded. The Freeze Warnings are in effect until 9 a.m. for most of the WAFB area, but officially ends at 7 a.m. closer to the coast. To the west of the Atchafalaya Basin, a 'Hard' Freeze Warning has been issued; the 'Hard' Freeze Warning emphasizes both the duration of the freeze as well as the fact that temperatures will be in the 20°s for several hours.
We're anticipating a low of 26° for Metro Airport for Friday morning, and while no 'Hard' Freeze is officially forecasted for the WAFB area, we suspect that at least some of WAFB's more northern communities will achieve a significant freeze that meets the criteria.
Thankfully, sunshine under mainly clear skies through the day on Friday should get metro Baton Rouge into the low 50°s by the afternoon -- certainly much warmer than today but still nearly 20° below normal for early March. Then it's back below freezing for many of us on Saturday morning, with a Saturday afternoon high in the low 60°s under fair skies.
After that, the forecast gets rather "cloudy." A series of west-to-east traveling mid/upper-level disturbances will keep our weather "unsettled," with decent rain chances each day. Most of these will be scattered rains, so not everyone gets wet every day. Monday looks to be the "wettest" day of the week, but for now we see no "rain-free" days through the entire upcoming week.
In addition to the scattered rains through next week, temperatures will remain below-normal too.