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By Jeff Palermo
Coach Will Wade's team has hit a rough patch. They lost their 3rd straight on Saturday in Nashville as Vanderbilt held on for a 77-71 win over the Fighting Tigers. 
 
It's the first road loss for LSU, who is now 11-7, 2-4 in the Southeastern Conference. The Commodores improved to 7-12, 2-5 in the SEC. 

The Tigers started slow and were down by six points at halftime. That deficit grew to 16 points in the 2nd half, but LSU rallied to take a one-point lead with just over two minutes left. 
 
But LSU scored just six points the rest of the way. The Tigers shot 44% for the game, 4-of-19 from 3-point territory and 62% from the free throw line. 
 
Duop Reath had a monster game with a career-high 31 points and 13 rebounds. That's his 9th double-double of his career. Skylar Mays was the only other double digit scorer as he had 13 points. 
 
LSU's leading scorer had a rough game as Tremont Waters scored just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting. He fouled out in the final seconds. 
 
Vanderbilt shot 51% and 7-of-19 from 3-point territory. The Commodores perimeter players out played LSU's. Riley LaChance had 26 points and Jeff Roberson had 20 points. Both players were tough to stop when Vanderbilt built a 16-point lead.
 
Freshman guard Saben Lee made some plays down the stretch to score 12 points.  
 
Senior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis did not play, because he's nursing a shoulder injury. 
 
LSU returns to the PMAC to host Texas A&M on Tuesday night 8 PM. 
 

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A 9.7 million dollar grant was awarded to a UL Lafayette consortium to study the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale oil deposit that stretches across central Louisiana into the Florida parishes. A study from the 80s indicated Louisiana could be sitting on nearly seven billion barrels of crude oil. ULL Professor Mehdi Mokhtari says the grant will help scientists unlock the shale’s potential.


 “This will help us make the formation more cost efficient, and understand better how to produce from this formation in a cost efficient and environmentally sound way.”

The consortium will be comprised of scientists, academics, and oil industry professionals from across the nation. Moktari says the consortium could raise the prestige of the University of Louisiana system.

“It will bring a lot of opportunities for the University of Louisiana higher education system, to be a leading institute among very prestigious universities.”

The Eagle Ford Shale in Texas is responsible for about 100,000 jobs in that state. Moktari says unlocking the shale could be a big boost to the bayou state’s economy…

“It can create a lot of jobs, it can bring a lot of oil and gas companies to these communities. It has a lot of benefit to the state.”

38 percent of the grant came from the US Department of Energy, the rest was provided by the oil industry.

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The Louisiana Public Service Commission wants to know why utility customers were asked to reduce energy consumption for a time Thursday morning over concerns the grids may not be able to handle the high demand in the cold. PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta says nobody's power was going to be shut off.


"The problem is when we run out of local electricity and have to go to the market, it could cost more and we don't want that to happen," said Skrmetta.

Skrmetta says the situation was bad enough yesterday that industrial customers were warned that their power could be turned off which flows to households. He says there is no reason that should ever happen and it's the PSC's job to make sure that power is always there for consumers to use.

"And it's ultimately not our job to tell people to conserve unless there is an issue," said Skrmetta. "We need to get to the bottom of why the operator felt the action of asking people to conserve needed to be taken."

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which manages the flow of electricity, said they had set a record Wednesday morning for peak winter power usage.

Skrmetta says the PSC's ultimate goal is to make sure the resources are there, and that people have what they need to live their lives.

"And if there are not, we need to know about it," said Skrmetta.
 
 
 

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Roads were shuttered and pipes shattered as Louisiana suffered record lows this week. Many Louisianans woke up to the sound of running water and nasty surprises across their property. Pipes “R” Us owner Danny Griffin says there’s a good way to avoid the hassle going forward.


 “You need to insulate your pipes, that’s a must, especially if you have a raised house. Any pipe exposed to the elements you need to insulate it. You can run water, but insulation will help out tremendously.”

Griffin is asking for patience as calls flood in asking for repairs.

“I got eight trucks out there working 12, 14 hour days, and we’ve gotten over 400 phone calls.”

Louisiana is no stranger to disasters, and the fraudsters that chase them. Griffin has some advice on how to avoid a bad deal…

“Make sure you get a licensed plumber, make sure you ask them what the charge is per hour. There’s a lot of these fly by nights running around out there saying I can fix this, fix hat, and they’re not fixing the pipes right, and they’re overcharging for it.“

Griffin says if you don’t have experience working with plumbing, leave the work to the professionals.

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Higher Education Commisisoner Joe Rallo is concerned about the possible lack funding for the TOPS program. Governor Edwards will present his budget proposal on Monday. Rallo says if funding for TOPS is eliminated, it will be devastating for students who benefit from the program.

"Our students right now are making decisions as to where they're going to go to college.  And having to wait until the end of June to find out if there's going to be funding if there's going to be TOPS support, is very, very disastrous because they're starting to make decisions to go out of state or just not go to school."
 
TOPS is expected to see a reduction in funding, because there's no solution yet on how to make up the loss of a one billion dollar shortfall, once a one-penny sales tax expires July 1st. Rallo says if TOPS doesn’t get funding, it could affect Louisiana’s job market.
 
"People want new companies to come here.  They want companies and to stay here.  They have to be able to hire employees.  Sadly if you have no funding for higher education, you can't produce those graduates."
 
Governor Edwards has said he will ask for a special session next month to consider the budget if there isn’t an agreement in principle in place. Rallo says time is of the essence in getting a financial plan in place since nationwide faculty recruitment is currently underway. 
 
"Faculty searches are currently going on.  Those searches are going to have to be put on hold or they will have to be cancelled.  So you're not bringing new blood into the state.  At the same time a lot of faculty members are looking to go out of state."
 

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A legislative task force is recommending Louisiana loosen its restrictions on where gambling can take place. The task force put forward two recommendations to make bayou gaming more nationally competitive. Lake Charles Senator Ronnie Johns says one of those proposals involves allowing riverboat casinos some inland real estate.


 "We said they would be allowed to build on land and it could be no more than 1200 feet from their existing facility."
 
Existing regulations only allow a certain square footage of “gaming space”, and Johns says this requirement is antiquated considering the size of new slot machines.
 
"We're going to propose legislation to get away from square footage and go to a defined number of gaming machines that can be put in one particular license."
 
Johns says if the proposals are adopted, you shouldn’t expect to see an increase in the number of Louisiana casinos.
 
"I can assure everybody that we are not expanding the number of licenses and we are not creating a whole bunch of new casinos around the state." 

These proposals will be put before legislators during the upcoming legislative session.

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Frank Selas, known as Mr. Wonder on a Monroe children’s television show in the 1970s, accepted a plea deal in Rapides Parish, where he’ll serve five years for sexually assaulting a child during a camping trip in 1979. Selas gets two years credited for time served and will not have to register as a sex offender since the sex offender registry didn’t exist when the crime was committed. Legal analyst Tim Meche says this is exactly how a plea agreement is supposed to work.

"It's a classic example of correlation between district attorneys, defense attorneys, victims and their families in doing what's right for everybody."
 
Selas’ attorney Mike Small said in a statement that the agreement was a “no-brainer.” And the “outcome in this case is the result of countless hours and meetings…all of whom were intimately familiar with the…case.” Meche says people may be shocked at the lenient sentence, but this agreement benefits the people directly involved.
 
"They didn't have the intimate knowledge that the district attorney of that parish had and the victim and the family had.  And that was the result they wanted."
 
The Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office said in a statement it is “in the best interest of the victim and his family to bring the matter to a conclusion...that would avoid putting the victim and his family through a public trial.” Meche says evidence in a decades old case would have been hard to find.
 
"There would have been difficulties in trying the case from an evidence standpoint no doubt.  And that was a factor that entered into the district attorney's opinion."
 

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Residents in Louisiana were asked by their utility companies to conserve power for a time period Thursday morning as energy demand was getting close to being more than what the power grids could handle.


Entergy spokeswoman Sheila Pounders says the Midcontinent Independent System Operator made the request since they manage supply and demand on the grid.

"So they asked us to ask our customers to conserve because the demand was so high nationwide because of the unprecedented weather," said Pounders.

Pounders says typically there is a huge spike in power usage about 8am every morning when people are getting to work, so they simply asked folks to refrain for a couple of hours. She says it is extremely unusual for demand to be greater than supply, but if electricity had exceeded available generation, MISO would ask utilities to reduce power.

"So there would have been intermittent outages in certain areas at MISO's request," said Pounders. "But we did make it through the morning without any events."

Pounders says MISO doesn’t foresee any future demand that would exceed the supply over the next several days as temperatures rise.

"If we do we will follow the same channels and alert the public," said Pounders. "But right now we're not anticipating any other requests."
 
 
 

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Michelle Southern reporting. 
Water pressure has become a concern across Louisiana in the wake of the recent arctic blast, which has prompted some parishes to issue boil water advisories. So why does this happen? Louisiana Department of Health Chief Engineer Amanda Laughlin says when a hard freeze event takes place, pipes burst and there are an extremely high number of line breaks.

"And often customers will run their water for an extended period of time, and the system just can not handle that dramatic change in pressure," said Laughlin. "So they issue a boil advisory as a precaution in case there is a contamination event."

Laughlin says there are nearly 50 boil advisories posted in the state right now, and that number is expected to go up. She says if your house is under a boil water advisory, it's important to follow the order because when pressure is low, bacteria could potentially enter the distribution system.

"When your system is under the proper amount of pressure it keeps things out," said Laughlin. "But when you lose pressure it allows things in."

Laughlin says the advisories are only a precaution in case something has entered the system that could potentially make you sick. She says it's still okay to shower and bathe in the water, but any water you ingest should first be boiled.

"Same thing with washing dishes if you hand wash, you don't want to use water that hasn't been boiled," she says. "But you can use your dishwasher that reaches high temperatures."
 
 
 
 
 

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An off-duty Alexandria police officer was killed in an accident in Grant Parish Wednesday. 53-year-old Sgt. Travis Lowe of Deville was southbound on Highway 167, when he lost control of his pickup truck and collided with a large tree. Master State Police Trooper Scott Moreau says the frigid weather didn’t play a factor in the accident.


"Road conditions for this fatal crash did not play a factor in this crash, neither speed or impairment.  So those three things are not considered factors in the crash."
 
Moreau says they are puzzled as to why a police officer, who is concerned about safe driving, wouldn’t have his seat belt on when he was behind the wheel. 
 
"Not wearing your seat belt still remains the leading cause of death in motor vehicle crashes.  Whether it's good weather or bad weather we ask that you please wear your seat belt." 

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The freezing grip from the polar vortex is about to loosen in Louisiana. Forecasters say we have one more night of below freezing temperatures statewide and then a warm front begins to move in which will swing temperatures the other way. State climatologist Barry Keim says this weekend will feel like paradise after nearly a month of below normal temperatures.

"The warming trend continues all the way through the weekend.  By Sunday we can expect minimum temperatures in the 50s and highs near 70."
 
Keim says we haven’t seen haven’t such frigid temperatures n 20 years. He says the bigger weather story is the winter precipitation in the span of six weeks. 
 
"Getting two significant events is certainly rare in Louisiana, and you could argue we had a third mixed weather precipitation event this January when we had some snow in Boothville and along the coastal zone."
 
Keim says there’s one more day of extreme cold to go through before the temperatures start stabilizing, which will help defrost interstates and roads. 
 
"Today afternoon temperatures are going to rise up into the 40s, a little warmer than what we experienced the last couple of days.  Tomorrow morning we can expect temperatures in the mid 20s across most of the state, so that's a full ten degrees warmer than it was yesterday."

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Travel review website RewardExpert finds people vacationing in Louisiana are the “happiest and most satisfied of tourists.” The site found that 98-percent of visitors to the Bayou State are happier with their trip here than other states. Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser credits Louisiana’s hospitality.
 


"Meeting with tour operators and travel agents that send people to Louisiana and I asked them, why do you send people to Louisiana?  Every one of them had a story about the way Louisianans treat visitors."
 
Nungesser says the information is timely as they are getting ready to promote Louisiana as a travel destination to tour operators in Asia.
 
"Later this year, we'll be taking a delegation to China and Japan to promote tourism in Louisiana.  That's two of the areas that is going to be the largest growth in international travelers."
 
The Los Angeles Times also listed Louisiana as one of 25 must-see places this year and the New York Times says New Orleans is the number one place to go this year as the city celebrates its 300th birthday this year. Nungesser says while there are places to visit in the Bayou State, he believes it’s the people who make Louisiana a great place to vacation in.
 
"We're just very giving people and warm people here in Louisiana and it is our greatest asset."

Other states which came in the top five for the happiest visitors included Mississippi, New Hampshire, Delaware and Iowa.

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Louisiana is suffering its worst flu season on record, with nearly 10 in 100 doctors visits in the last month being for flu related symptoms. Louisiana Department of Health Immunization Director Frank Welch says in his 20 years doing this, he's never seen so many cases...


“We are almost double the national average and the national average is terrible, so we are really hit hard in Louisiana.”

Welch says the worst outbreak he’s seen previously was 8 in 100 visits, and that only lasted a week.

Every few years the country is hit with a particularly nasty strain of flu, known as H3-N2, but this year’s strain of the already tough bug is even more resilient than usual. Welch says that means more severe symptoms…

“More people get the flu, its more contagious and its more serious. Rather than being sick three or 4 days people are sick five to seven days.”

Welch says if you come down with flu like symptoms, you need to isolate yourself…

“The sudden onset of muscle aches, headaches, eye pain, sore throats and most people have a fever as well. Please separate yourself from other people, go home, and call your doctor.”

Welch says the flu kills roughly 700 Louisianans on average every year.

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Cold temperatures claimed the life of a man in New Roads early Wednesday. Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Bud Torres says they were notified by a neighbor that 84-year-old Paul Maker was found dead due to hypothermia in his home. They had some space heaters, but weren’t running them overnight.

"They did have a heater, but they did not run it overnight because of fear that it may catch the house on fire.  Because of that, temperatures inside the house did drop below freezing."

Torres says Maker and his wife lived in the older home that wasn’t equipped with central heat. The home’s temperature when they arrived was 20 degrees. Torres says Maker’s wife was alive when they found her but is suffering from the extreme temperatures.

"Mr. Maker's wife was at the residence also and she was very cold and suffering from hypothermia.  His wife was hospitalized because of exposure to the cold." 

Torres says the sad outcome of this story shows people should check on their neighbors during this cold snap, especially elderly ones.

"If you have elderly people living next door to you, please contact law enforcement. please contact us.  If you do have someone in dire need and we will make arrangements to try to get them to safety."

The Governor’s office says Maker’s death is one of four statewide related to the cold weather.

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The Wakefield Fire Chief died in the line of duty Wednesday morning. 48-year-old Russell Achord of St. Francisville was killed while responding to another accident on Highway 61 in West Feliciana Parish. State Police Senior Trooper Bryan Lee says that’s when 51-year-old Robert McCoy of Tallulah came around a curve.
 
"He approached the crash scene and he attempted to brake and lost control.  That vehicle then slid into a couple of first responder's vehicles and struck those vehicles as well as Chief Achord."


Lee says they will continue their investigation into the exact cause of the accident to see if speed or the loss of control of the vehicle was a factor. 
 
"Troopers are going to go and collect some more evidence from that vehicle to actually determine the speed.  But we do believe weather also played a factor.  The road conditions were also icy as well."
 
There were no injuries reported in the initial accident. 

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Louisiana is trying to thaw out from record breaking cold. Chris Bannon with National Weather Service says 40 year-old records were broken this morning in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
 
"Baton Rouge got down to 14-degrees, broke the previous record of 18 set in 1977. Moisant Airport actually down to 20 and that broke the previous record of 23, also set in 1977," Bannon said.


Bannon says we'll see another hard freeze tonight, which is not good for icy roads. 
 
"So are roads that are shaded that do not melt, remain cold with at least water on the ground they are going to refreeze overnight," Bannon said. 
 
The low temperature in Shreveport was 12-degrees. The National Weather Service says Shreveport hasn't seen a temperature that low since 1996. Meteorologist C.S. Ross says Monroe's low temperature tied a record for this date. 
 
"Monroe tied their record low this morning at 12-degrees, also last set for the date, back in 1982." 
 
There's also anywhere between one to three inches of snow in north Louisiana. Ross says that snow will stick around for a couple of days. 
 
"Very little if any melting through today , especially tonight as temperatures drop back into the teens. Warmer on Thursday with temperatures reaching the low to mid 40s." 

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Needless to say the icy road conditions are something Louisianians are not familiar with, but there are still motorists out who are required to be at work. State Police Senior Trooper Bryan Lee says based on the number of crashes they saw in a short period of time this morning, plenty of people can't handle a vehicle on the ice. (pictured is I-10 in Baton Rouge @ College Dr.)


"People are driving far to fast for the conditions," said Lee. "They are accustomed to watching out for overpasses, but we've got icy portions of the roadway that are not elevated."

Lee says troopers responded to at least 40 crashes and vehicles that had slid off the road between 5am and 9am this morning in the Greater Baton Rouge area alone. He says if you can't stay put, remain aware of your surroundings.

"Limit your travel, because as long as we have temperatures below freezing, we're still going to have those icy conditions on the roadway," said Lee.

This morning before 10am, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office says an 8 month old child died, and its mother is in grave condition after their vehicle slid into a canal in Metairie. DOTD Spokesman Rodney Mallett says the roads appear easier to travel than they actually are.

"You can hit black ice, or ice patch and slide off the road and not even know what happened because it happened so quickly," said Mallett.

Mallett says, despite all of the interstate closures, their crews have been working around the clock to make it to where at least some travel is possible.

"They did work all night long to keep the Sunshine Bridge open, and 190 open, which was a chore," said Mallett. "And we also had a crew come in to run the ferry all night."

Mallett says they will work to re-open the bridges and interstates as soon as it is safe to do so. He says even when the temperatures get above freezing, it make take a while for the roads to thaw out.

"I still think considering where we are now with the number of closures, those on the road should only be on the road only if you're essential," said Mallett.
 
Visit 511la.org for an up-to-date list of road closures. 
 
9AM: Current road closures include I-10 in both directions from I-49 in Lafayette to Williams Blvd in Kenner. I-12 is closed in both directions from I-10 in Baton Rouge to Madisonville/Goodbee. I-55 is closed from LaPlace to north of Kentwood. In North Louisiana, I-49 is closed from Shreveport to the border. In Lake Charles, the loop is closed.
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards has declared a State of Emergency due to the hazardous winter weather conditions. He says it’s imperative that people stay home since DOTD crews have a short time to get salt and deicing agents applied to prevent tonight’s cold temperatures to refreeze the roads.
 
"This enables DOTD to have the most robust salting operation that they can possibly have. We're asking people to stay off the roads and heed the warning of officials until the all clear is given."

Governor Edwards says every person on the road in these treacherous conditions puts themselves and others at risk. Some law enforcement personnel found that out last night. 
"I think we've had five State Police troopers who had their cars parked so they were engaging in traffic control, when cars hit some ice and slid into them. One had to be taken to the hospital."
 
Governor Edwards says officials are very concerned about tonight’s cold temperatures as the driving dangers may remanifest themselves again. 
 
"It's only going to be above freezing in most of Louisiana for a few hours after noon. We're expecting it to get slightly above freezing and then freeze again."
 

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Thousands are without power today. Many SWEPCO customers in northwest Louisiana are without electricity and heat. SWEPCO spokesperson Carey Sullivan says the heavy ice accumulation is the main cause of the power outages.

"It is all weather related. We're dealing with a lot of ice accumulations on our lines and on trees.  And what it's causing the tree limbs to fall from the weight of the ice and that's causing the bulk of our outages."

Sullivan says crews are working as quickly as possible to restore, but can only work as fast as the weather allows.
 
"The road conditions are also a consideration, making sure our crews can get to where they need to go to restore power.  Once they get to the place they need to be, they will safely and quickly restore power."
 
Sullivan says several substations are also affected by the cold icy weather.
 

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Some of the coldest temperatures Louisiana has seen so far are being observed this morning. Some areas are reporting near single digit temperatures while coastal areas are not warmer than the 20’s to start the day off. Lake Charles National Weather Service forecaster Robert Megnia says the entire state is waking up to a chilly morning.
 
 


"It's going to be in the low 20s here in Lake Charles.  Probably going to feel closer to 10 degrees.  It's going to feel even colder to the north.  So temperatures are going to feel like the single digits like 8 or 9 degrees."
 
Megnia says after bottoming out this morning, temperatures will slowly rebound across the state over the next 48 hours. 
 
"Looking like we'll have lows below freezing or below definitely for the next two nights in the mid to low 20s.  Then it looks like Thursday night it will creep up toward 30."
 
Meanwhile, if you’re heading out to work this morning, allow for plenty of extra time. DOTD’s Rodney Mallet says if a road is deemed unsafe, you might find your normal route to work may be closed. 
 
"Our guys have worked throughout the night.  Whenever we lose a route, we will move and make sure we can keep our priority routes open."

Mallet says even when temperatures above freezing later today, it doesn’t mean the slippery conditions go away immediately.

"It's not like once the temperature gets to 33 degrees, it automatically thaws.  It's a lot like when your take your turkey out of the freezer out for Thanksgiving, it takes a while for it to thaw out."
 
 

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