Winter weather bringing freezing temperatures, black ice possible, to Northwest Florida
NORTHWEST FLORIDA — Okaloosa County public schools are closed Tuesday amid concerns that icy roads might make bus travel unsafe.
The school district made the announcement Monday afternoon as much of the Gulf Coast was preparing for sub-freezing temperatures to grip the region on the heels of a line of severe storms.
Portions of Southeast Mississippi and Southwest Alabama have the potential for freezing rain and icing on trees and elevated road surfaces, especially bridges and overpasses, according to the Mobile Weather Forecast Office.
Don Shepherd, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service of Mobile, said the Florida Panhandle should expect some freezing temperatures.
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“Tonight is when the cold air really comes in over that way,” Shepherd said Monday morning. “In that area, probably around 24 or 25 degrees for the low temperatures tonight. And it’s going to be a little windy behind this, too, so wind chill is going to be in the upper teens it looks like.”
There is little chance for ice or snow in Northwest Florida, Shepherd said Monday morning.
“There could be if there’s some wet road surfaces,” Shepherd said. “Because we’re going to expect some rain today and as you get to tonight, you do have temperatures in the mid-20s, so there could be some what we call black ice or water that freezes, especially on elevated surfaces later tonight, but no accumulating frozen or winter-type precipitation at all.”
Still, local and state officials began taking precautions for a worst case scenario.
The Florida Department of Transportation announced it would deploy various tankers, bridge deck sprayers and other equipment to apply anti-icing products on bridges and overpasses to prevent ice from bonding to the pavement surface. The anti-icing products allows any potential ice layer to melt more quickly and reduce the amount of time required to restore the roads to a clear, dry state, an FDOT news release said.
The Okaloosa County School District wrote that after consulting with the Okaloosa County director of public safety as well as neighboring counties, officials made the call that the roads could be too dangerous for bus travel Tuesday, so school would be closed.
"School-operated daycares will also be closed tomorrow. With schools closed, meal service will not be provided for mySchool Online students whose parents have been picking up meals at school sites," a news release from the district said.
"Based on (Public Safety Director Patrick) Maddox’s input, athletic and extracurricular events scheduled for after school tomorrow are still able to occur at this time," the release said. "Please be in contact with your student’s sponsor or coach for updates on after school athletic and extracurricular events. Also, my School Online students can work in their virtual courses if they wish to. However, teacher-led activities will not occur on Tuesday."
Normal operations are expected to resume Wednesday, according to the district.
The Walton County School District also announced the Tuesday closure of schools.
The greatest potential for impacts from freezing rain will be along and northwest of a line from Butler, Alabama, to Waynesboro, Mississippi, to New Augusta, Mississippi, according to the Mobile Weather Forecast Office.
It will stay cold in Northwest Florida for the next couple of days, with temperatures hovering in the lower to mid-40s, Shepherd said. Tuesday will be the coldest night after Monday, and Wednesday will be the warmest night, he said.
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“Thursday, we’ve got another system coming in and out,” Shepherd said. “Ahead of that you get that southerly flow, so it’s going to warm us up, probably into the mid-60s or so for the Panhandle. It’s still going to stay pretty cold back to the west. It’s kind of a roller coaster on the temperatures, where you warm up and then cool back down.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
Freezing rain — A winter weather advisory is in effect until 3 p.m. this afternoon for interior Southeast Mississippi and West-Central Alabama.
Severe weather — There is a potential for isolated damaging winds and a possible brief tornado this afternoon along and south of a line from Point Clear to Andalusia in Alabama
Black ice — With much colder air moving over the area tonight, any water left standing on area roads is expected to freeze, with bridges freezing more quickly than roadways. DOT has been requested to make salt and/or heated sand truck runs on major arteries with bridges.
Wind chill advisory and hard freeze warning — Temperatures are expected to fall to 20 degrees or lower along and west of Bay Minette. Combined with breezy conditions, wind chills are expected to fall to 10F or lower over the same area as the hard freeze warning. A wind chill advisory and a hard freeze warning are in effect from 10 p.m. tonight until 9 a.m. Tuesday.