North Florida Hit By Winter Storm

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014  |  Updated 6:25 PM EDT
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North Florida Hit By Winter Storm

Tyler Allender

Ice and sleet on cars at Florida State University of Wednesday, January 29, 2014.

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Temperatures in South Florida were in the upper 70s Wednesday but just a few hundred miles to the north it was another story entirely, with near freezing weather and the rare sight of snow and sleet.

Parts of the Florida Panhandle were under a winter storm warning as temperatures hovered around 32 degrees in Tallahassee. The last time snow was spotted in the state capitol was in February 2010.

Florida State University was closed as a result of the wintry weather, as was Florida A&M.

Temperatures are expected to rebound by Friday with highs back into the 60s.

Emergency officials said Wednesday afternoon that numerous bridges in the western Panhandle could remain closed through Thursday morning because of the icy conditions. Pensacola International Airport was closed Wednesday and not expected to reopen until 9 a.m. Thursday.

Two people were believed killed in a 17-vehicle accident that included four semi-trucks on an icy Interstate bridge Tuesday night.

Santa Rosa County emergency officials said divers pulled the body of one person from the water on Wednesday and were searching for another person who is presumed to have died in the collision that happened on span of Interstate 10 that crosses the Blackwater River.

Three people were taken to Santa Rosa Medical Center for crash-related injuries, officials said.

"The incident is ongoing and divers are in the water," according to an emergency update from Santa Rosa County issued Wednesday afternoon.

Temperatures were expected to climb to about 35 degrees but overcast skies would prevent much melting.

After sunset Tuesday, officials closed the two bridges crossing Pensacola Bay and connecting the city to rest of the state.

Panhandle counties further west also announced numerous bridge and road closings.

The region hasn't seen snow and ice for years.

Sporadic power outages were reported throughout the area because of iced power lines.

"Every major bridge and roadway in Escambia County is either closed or experiencing major issues and even neighborhood streets are icy and dangerous," Escambia county officials said in a public-safety update on Wednesday.

The region had a dusting of snow that melted quickly in 2010. It has been more than a decade since the area had snow that remained on the ground for a while, according to weather records.

Schools, government offices, even military bases were closed or operating with limit staffing Wednesday.

Emergency officials warned residents about falling tree limbs and downed power lines caused by the ice buildup.

Farther west, officials in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties also announced numerous bridge and road closings and encouraged residents to stay inside and off the streets until the ice melts. Residents in normally sunny vacation destinations including Fort Walton Beach and Destin were urged to remain indoors and off the icy roads.

John Hofstad, public works director for Okaloosa County, told The Northwest Florida Daily News that all roads and bridges in that area were iced over Wednesday.

"There's not enough sand to go around," he said.

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