It’s back into the deep freeze for northwest Florida and south Alabama, as another round of frigid weather is on tap this week. But this time, there’s a little extra.
Here’s something you don’t hear every day: the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the Gulf Coast, including Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties. Forecasters say a mix of freezing rain and snow is expected Tuesday through Wednesday.
Meteorologist Dave Eversole at the National Weather Service in Mobile overnight lows are expected to drop back below freezing, much as what we’ve seen for the entire month of January.
“Tuesday night we’re looking at lower 20s in Mobile, and probably upper 20s in the Pensacola area,” said Eversole. “But then Wednesday night, we’re going to be down into at least the lower 20s with some colder patches…in the teens.”
Add to that northerly winds of 15 to 25 miles an hour, driving down wind chill readings to between 15 and 20 degrees.
Meanwhile, students in the Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa School Districts will get for many their first-ever “snow days” on Tuesday and Wednesday. Escambia Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says what guided their decision to close was 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.
All Catholic schools in the three counties are also closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Elsewhere, all UWF campuses will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and re-open Thursday. Pensacola State College will close at midnight Monday, and re-open at ten o’clock Wednesday morning.
Northwest Florida State College will close on Tuesday, and will make a decision later regarding Wednesday. Pensacola Christian Academy is closed Tuesday, with a decision on Wednesday to be made sometime on Tuesday.
For now, one of the unknowns is just how road conditions are going to be affected by the winter weather. Lt. Steve Preston with the Florida Highway Patrol advises residents in the watch area not to travel when those conditions begin deteriorating.
“If you absolutely have to get out on the road, you need to plan ahead,” said Preston. “Make sure that you allow a little more time for your trip, and make sure you slow down and increase your following distance. Be aware that the bridges, overpasses, and elevated roadways are going to probably freeze before the roadway itself does.”
Other tips: check battery, tires and windshield wipers; keep windows clear and check your antifreeze. Salt, sand and kitty litter can keep ice from forming on roads and driveways and provides traction. If your vehicle goes into a skid, Preston says steer gently into it and do not stomp on your brakes.
Residents should also review their safety plans, to protect the “Three-P’s” – people, pets and property. Check on older friends and relatives, and bring pets and plants indoors. Wrap exposed water pipes and allow a slow, steady drip through outdoor faucets.
There is some light – and a bit of warmth – at the end of the tunnel. By Friday, rain is in the forecast, but daytime temperatures are projected back in the 60s, with nighttime lows around 50 degrees.