WINTER WEATHER WARNING: School's out as Destin, region prepare (UPDATE)

William Hatfield
The National Weather Service's snowfall probability map.

Monday evening update:

A Winter Storm Warning is now in effect for all of Southeast Mississippi, southwest and south central Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle from 6 a.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday.

According to the National Weather Serivce: With cold air in place, most of the area north of the immediate coast can expect a mix of freezing rain and sleet throughout the day Tuesday. While snow may also mix in across Interior portions of Southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama. Precipitation may transition to a wintry mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow near the coast Tuesday night, and from sleet to snow over interior areas. Significant ice, sleet, and snow accumulations will be possible before precipitation ends Wednesday.

Gulf Power, meanwhile, says its employees are ready for the extreme weather. CLICK HERE to read more

Monday afternoon update:

After Okaloosa and Walton county schools declared quasi-snow days for Tuesday and Wednesday, Okaloosa County put out this notice to its residents and visitors.

Okaloosa County will experience rain, sleet and even possible snow Tuesday through Wednesday. Public Safety and Public Works are monitoring conditions, especially in the northern parts of the county, to include bridges. Residents should be prepared for power outages and are encouraged to pay attention to local television, radio and newspaper web sites and heed the following precautions:

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SNOW IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA?  Share a photo on our web page by clicking here.

Monday morning update:

A winter storm watch is in effect from 6 a.m. Tuesday morning through 9 a.m. Wednesday morning for the Destin area, according to the National Weather Service Mobile Alabama.

So, what does that mean?

First off, it means students at Destin Elementary and Middle School will have the day off for a quasi-snow day. Okaloosa County School District made the call due to weather-related safety concerns. Walton County followed suit Monday afternoon.

There is a possibility that significant accumulations of freezing rain, sleet and snow are possible along the Panhandle, although it's still too early to know the exact impacts.

A representative from the National Weather Service told The Log it's unlikely that snow accumulation will be seen in Destin, but if the temperature dips low enough, it could happen.

"Being close to the water, you may just see rain," he said. "You could expect a mixed bag though, probably starting off as rain, then transitioning to sleet and possibly snow."

WeatherUnderground is forecasting for temperatures in Destin to dip to a low of 31 degrees Wednesday, calling for an 80 percent chance of rain and "ice pellets."

If Destin does see freezing temperatures, the possibility of ice forming on sidewalks and roadways becomes a greater possibility, which means there could be concerns with traveling.

Original Story from Sunday:

A race between moisture and falling temperatures could determine if Destin and South Walton will see snowflakes this week.

“There’s a small chance, especially Tuesday night as colder air comes into the area and transitions to snow,” said Jack Cullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile, Ala.

More seriously is the possibility of an ice storm impacting the region. Northwest Florida was under a Winter Storm Watch as of Sunday morning, with a warning of freezing rain likely on the way. 

"So confidence is now high that a winter storm warning will be upcoming," the latest discussion from the NWS states. "Potentially we could see 0.25 to 0.75 inch of ice coating the roads, bridges, power lines and trees. This mixed precipitation type is then expected to transition to all snow north of a line from Hattiesburg, Miss., to Andalusia, Ala., Tuesday evening and south of this line all the way to the coast after midnight Tuesday night. About 1 to 3 inches of snow could fall in addition to the ice, covering the ice already in place. The track of upper level disturbance indicates the heavier precipitation amounts will be southeast of a line from Wiggins, Miss., to Greenville, Ala., where significant hazardous winter weather accumulations are possible. Life threatening impacts to travel will likely occur. It is highly advised not to travel in these conditions.

There's a lesser chance of snow and sleet for Destin through the same period, in which the city will see temps in the low 30s.

With the bay on one side and the Gulf on the other, “Destin stays a little bit warmer surrounded by all that water,” Cullen said.

Still, with scattered reports of sleet in the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village and from Destin harbor on Friday, there’s always a possibility of a white post-Christmas.

"Last time I saw snow in Destin was 1989. But I blinked a few minutes ago and missed it. DRAT!" wrote Jonelle Toth Bell, who was working one of the charter booking booths on the docks on Friday.

Weather buff and Northwest Florida Daily News online editor Del Stone remembers the winter of ’73, when Fort Walton Beach saw about 2 inches of snow stick.

It wouldn’t take that much to send local residents into winter wonder.

“The last time I saw snow in Destin, just a dusting mind you, was in 1993 I believe,” wrote David Riccio. “I remember living on Kelly Street and returning home from work around 2 a.m. I had to wake my roommate and her boyfriend because he had never seen snow before. I witnessed a grown man acting like a child in a candy store.”