Icy Escapades: Bridge closures mean sledding, strandings and traffic gridlock in Destin (PHOTOS)

Savannah Chastain
Destinites got creative on the Destin bridge with bobsleds made from coolers and laundry baskets.

Locals found both joy and pain in the coating of ice that closed bridges and cut off Destin.

Nick Zimmerman, a 10-year Destin transplant from Michigan, made light of the situation as he found the icy conditions prime for shoe-skating.

"Well when I used to live in Michigan the roads would ice over and we used to run as fast as we could and slide as far as we could," he said.

The real estate photographer put his video editing skills to use and headed for the Marler Bridge.

Zimmerman's video, posted on The Log's Facebook page Wednesday, depicts him sliding upright on his feet across the Marler Bridge.

"We got a little taste of what it's like up north," he said. "In Michigan it usually snows first, and then it might ice as it warms up. But here it was the perfect recipe for ice."

Soon after the bridge was officially closed to traffic, other Destinites arrived to try their hand in the sledding fun. The bridge sledding frenzy did not last long, however, as police blocked pedestrian use of the bridge.

Destin business owner, Lori Moore, of Deep South Sno Treats, took store mascot Slinger the Penguin along to entertain the crowds gathered at the foot of the bridge.

"It was actually a lot of people," she exclaimed. "By the time we got down there, they were making everybody get off so we headed to Wild Cat Mountain."

The large dune, located near Mountain Drive and Melvin Street, is one of the highest points in town.

Moore said that word must have gotten out about the Destin hill as the roads were almost blocked off due to the amount of people.

"There were so many kids sledding out there," she said, "About 60-70 kids, and adults."

Ingenuity was the key for creating sleds as Moore reported people using laundry baskets, dog kennels, and kayaks to cruise down the slope. See video of the sledding. Click here.

"Someone brought one of those banana boats out there too," she said, "and they were piling thirty kids on there and taking them all the way down, and then piling them back on again."

But the snow day, which meant three days off for Okaloosa students, was not all fun and games.

For David Davis, of Crestview, the bridge closures meant being trapped in Destin for two nights.

"The first night I slept here at the office,” the Xator Corporation employee said.

He explained that he tried to cross the Destin bridge Tuesday night, but it was already closed.

"I just got back from D.C. too," he said. "They have the plows and salt and everything… the snow is different over there though, it is not like this ice."

Davis, who relied mainly on Wal-Mart pretzels for sustenance, learned his lesson. If the icy weather strikes again his advice is "Stay home! If it's gonna ice, stay home!"

The pain got worse for commuters on Thursday morning.

Both Brooks and Marler Bridges were reopened in limited capacity but Highway 98 was basically a parking lot as motorists were escorted across one lane in small groups of 20.

Morning commuters waited in line for hours to cross onto Okaloosa Island causing several Destin businesses to postpone opening until after the lunch hour.

Downtown Fort Walton Beach Circle K employee, Shaina Colwell witnessed the traffic standstill on Highway 98 for five hours and said, "Everyone was leaving their cars in the line and coming in for food, drinks, bathrooms and stuff." 

The Mid-Bay Bridge thawed and opened up around 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon, finally freeing Destin from the icy gridlock.