Officials in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties join the rest of the Florida Panhandle in bracing for a rare taste of winter precipitation.
A winter storm warning is in effect for the western Florida Panhandle for all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning, as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico joins forces with another blast of Arctic air. That, says Dave Eversole at the National Weather Service, means sleet, freezing rain and possibly some snow.
“Things are going to be changing over to rain and freezing rain,” said Dave Eversole at the National Weather Service in Mobile. “Pensacola, we’re expecting that wintry mix….let’s just say maybe up to an inch of accumulation thereabouts.”
The Santa Rosa County Commission declared a state of emergency at noon Monday. Emergency Director Brad Baker says the Operations Center was activated at Level-2.
“Basically, it’s just a partial activation,” Baker said. “We don’t feel like we need to bring in every emergency support function for this. So we’ll just bring in the select few and communication with them, and if we needed the others we could call them in at that time.”
An emergency declaration also allows the county to make formal requests to the state and FEMA for assistance if needed. A local state of emergency for Escambia County went into effect at midnight, and the City of Pensacola will suspend non-essential operations Tuesday and Wednesday.
Public Schools in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa are also closed for the next couple of days. Escambia Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says their decision to close was based on the possibility of freezing rain and sleet accumulations.
“My worst nightmare is that I would bring 40,000 students to school in the morning, and be unable to get all of those students safely home (Wednesday) afternoon,” Thomas said.
Also closed Tuesday and Wednesday, or parts thereof – all Catholic schools in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa; UWF, Pensacola State College, Northwest Florida State College, and Pensacola Christian Academy.
More information and updates are available at the Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa County emergency management websites – and at wuwf.org.