President Joe Biden issues federal emergency declaration for Louisiana's winter weather
President Joe Biden has issued a federal emergency declaration to help Louisiana manage a rare, week-long polar vortex that has killed four people and left 1 million without drinkable tap water.
More than 100,000 customers remained without electricity Thursday afternoon as a second round of ice and snow still covered northern Louisiana and boil orders remained in place in Shreveport and Lake Charles.
In Shreveport, Lake Charles and elsewhere, the Louisiana National Guard is transporting water to hospitals.
“Extreme winter weather, including record low temperatures, snow, sleet and freezing rain, has been destructive for many areas of Louisiana, most notably through continued power and water outages across the state," Edwards said in his request to Biden, which he made Wednesday night.
"This emergency declaration will help Louisiana better respond to this crisis and protect the health and safety of our people,” Edwards said.
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The declaration allows the state to access commodities and supplies in response to the extended power outage and emergency protective measures under the Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance program.
Republican Louisiana U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said the state's congressional delegation will continue to advocate for federal help.
“I will continue to make sure Louisiana families have access to the resources they need," Cassidy said in a statement. "To the people of Louisiana, stay safe and vigilant.”
In Carencro, a 50-year-old man suffered a fatal head injury after slipping and falling on ice, a 74-year-old Lafayette woman died from exposure after wandering from home, a homeless man froze to death in downtown Shreveport and a 77-year-old Calcasieu Parish man slipped on ice, fell into a pool and drowned.
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Some Louisiana shipments of COVID-19 vaccines were also pushed back because of the weather. "If you made (vaccine) appointments this week, double check with your provider," said Dr. Joe Kanter of the Louisiana Department of Health.
Though the snow and ice had exited the state midday Thursday, temperatures remained below freezing in much of northern Louisiana and are forecast to dip back into the teens Thursday night and Friday night.
"Roads remain treacherous in northern and central Louisiana," Edwards said during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
Edwards said Louisiana's power companies are asking customers to conserve electricity when possible, especially during the hours of 7-9 a.m. and 7-10 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 7-9 a.m. Saturday to preserve the grid.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.