SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards vowed to send as much help as the state possibly can to areas of the state hit hardest by extreme winter weather over the past week.
Before the media briefing, the governor met with the mayors of Shreveport and Bossier City, along with other local emergency officials and representatives from local hospitals.
“There was a lot of agreement as to what the biggest challenge is,” Edwards said. “It all revolves around water.”
The governor was in Shreveport Saturday afternoon and held a media briefing at LSU Health Shreveport on Louisiana’s response to winter weather conditions. He said the state’s efforts to help get bulk and bottled water to the hospitals are ongoing and a priority.
Edwards says those who need assistance should contact their local Office of Emergency Preparedness for information on resources available in their area.
The state is also working to get help to repair water systems and assessing whether there is enough damage to warrant a request for a federal disaster declaration and individual federal disaster assistance for those affected. President Joe Biden approved Louisiana’s federal emergency declaration request on Thursday.
While Edwards noted while the state’s response is statewide with impacts as far south as Lake Charles, “the focal point really is is Northwest Louisiana, because this area really took the brunt of this winter storm.
Before the briefing, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins accompanied the governor on a visit with city employees from Water and Sewerage, Fire and Police departments to recognize their efforts during the extreme winter conditions.
Edwards visit comes as the City of Shreveport continues to deal with widespread water issues caused by the frigid temperatures as numerous lines froze and burst, leaving many with little to no water in their homes. The city remains under a boil advisory that is expected to continue into next week and the city on Saturday asked customers to stop running faucets now that temperatures have risen above freezing.
The Amiss Water Plant and the Shreveport Fire Department have been using tankers to provide water to local hospitals and dialysis centers, along with the Louisiana National Guard, in response to requests from seven hospitals in Shreveport-Bossier, including Willis Knighton in Shreveport and CHRISTUS in Bossier. They also delivered 24 pallets of water to four hospitals in Bossier City.
Boil advisories remain in place in numerous communities, as cities and water systems including Natchitoches , Bossier City, and the Village Water System in Bossier Parish also plead with customers to stop running faucets.
The Louisiana Department of Health on Saturday confirmed two additional deaths tied to the winter storm, bringing the statewide death toll to 5.
A 68-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman in Avoyelles Parish died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a generator was placed in the camper in which they were staying.
Earlier in the week, a 74-year-old Lafayette Parish woman was found to have died of exposure, while a 77-year-old Calcasieu Parish man died after he slipped and fell into a pool where he drowned. A 50-year-old male from Lafayette Parish was the first reported winter storm-related death after he slipped on ice and striking his head on the ground.
More than 10,000 SWEPCO customers remained without power in Louisiana as of early Saturday afternoon, along with hundreds more Cleco customers.
Densly packed ice and snow on roadways continue to make travel hazardous, even as temperatures rise and it begins to melt. I-220 and urban I-49 to the Arkansas state line remain closed, along with a stretch of I-20 from Industrial Drive in Bossier City to Haughton. Traffic has remained backed up along I-20 near the Texas line, as well, prompting TX DOT to issue another advisory to drivers heading into Louisiana to look for other routes.
LA DOTD is working to clear more lanes on I-20 to improve traffic flow.