Some Florida schools, government offices close as snow, ice hit area


Residents in the western Panhandle awoke to a layer of ice and dusting of snow early Wednesday, something the region hasn’t seen in years.
Sporadic power outages were reported throughout the area because of iced power lines. Numerous bridges were closed overnight Tuesday through Wednesday morning.
“Every major bridge and roadway in Escambia County is either closed or experiencing major issues and even neighborhood streets are icy and dangerous,” Escambia county officials said in a public-safety update released early Wednesday.
The region had a dusting of snow that melted quickly in 2010. It has been more than a decade since the area had snow that remained on the ground for a while, according to weather records.
After sunset Tuesday, officials closed the two bridges crossing Pensacola Bay and connecting the city to rest of the state. The bridges remained closed Wednesday morning.
Officials in Pensacola are asking all non-emergency vehicles to stay off the roads.
Schools, government offices, even military bases were closed or operating with limited staffing Wednesday.
Temperatures were expected to climb above freezing by Wednesday afternoon. In the meantime, residents were staying inside and heeding the weather warnings.
Emergency officials warned residents about falling tree limbs and downed power lines caused by the ice buildup.
The Escambia County Emergency Management Office will continue to monitor weather conditions Wednesday morning.
A number of services remained closed in the area, including the Escambia County Area Transit, which will resume operations on Thursday.
Officials say the Pensacola International Airport parking garage closed Tuesday night due to ice on the ramps. Crews were working through the night to de-ice the ramps and asked airport visitors to park in surrounding areas. The airport is expecting major delays on Wednesday morning and officials advise passengers to check with airlines for the status of flights.
Gulf Power was experiencing intermittent power outages Tuesday evening as ice formed on power lines.
In central Florida, rain showers continued Wednesday morning as a front began making its way across the area.
That front will bring not only rain, but dropping temperatures, according to Severe Weather Center 9 meteorologist Brian Shields.
Shields said temperatures will likely stay in the 40s in Lake County and the northern central Florida counties with temperatures remaining in the 50s in Orange County and the surrounding area.
“With the cold weather moving in and the wet weather tonight, it could be the recipe for a brief wintry mix in northern Marion County. A few wet flakes could mix in,” said Shields.
Temperatures are expected to stay cool through Thursday before returning to the 70s on Friday.
A little further north cities like Atlanta were hit with snow and freezing temperatures Tuesday.
Students are camping out with teachers in school gyms and commuters abandoned cars along the highway to seek shelter in churches and fire stations after a rare snowstorm has left thousands of unaccustomed Southerners frozen in their tracks.
Tuesday’s storm deposited mere inches of snow, barely enough to qualify as a storm up North. And yet it’s been more than enough to paralyze Deep South cities such as Atlanta and Birmingham, and strand thousands of workers who tried to rush home early only to never make it home at all.
There were hundreds of fender-benders, and some fatal crashes too. Jackknifed 18-wheelers littered Interstate 65 in central Alabama. Ice shut down bridges on Florida’s panhandle and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, one of the world’s longest spans, in Louisiana.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal says the National Guard is sending military Humvees onto Atlanta’s winter weather-snarled freeway system in an attempt to move stranded school buses and get food and water to people.
Deal says the Georgia State Patrol is also sending troopers to schools where children remain stranded after spending the night there after snow began falling Tuesday afternoon. He said in a statement early Wednesday morning that state transportation crews are continuing to treat roads and bring gas to stranded motorists.
Deal plans a briefing at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Capitol to discuss the state’s “ongoing disaster response.”
A sea of red brake lights remained at a standstill along a dozen lanes of the Downtown Connector shortly before dawn Wednesday.

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