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NWFL, South AL Bracing For Cold Weather

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It doesn’t happen very often, but the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama could get a taste of Old Man Winter this weekend, as parts further north get hit even harder.

Meteorologists are watching a cold front, part of Winter Storm Helena, that’s forecast to ride the Jet Stream to the South and East later this week, bringing with it a massive amount of cold air.

“[It] will be accompanied by a pretty good chance of precipitation along with it, that we’ll be continuing to monitor over the next couple of days,” says Cody Lindsey at the National Weather Service in Mobile.

“There is a signal that there could be a bit of a wintry mix, primarily to the north, going into the western Florida Panhandle, going into south-central and interior southwest Alabama,” said Lindsey. “Where we may see a mixture of rain, sleet, if not a little bit of snow flurry activity going into Friday night and early Saturday morning.”

Lindsey adds that much of the precipitation expected for northwest Florida and south Alabama should remain liquid, but it is something forecasters will watch as the weekend approaches.

“Right now it looks like it’s just going to be a cold rain for us down in the Pensacola area; the models are still going and they’re still spitting out different information,” said John Dosh, Escambia County Emergency Manager.

“We’re communicating closely with the Weather Service,” Dosh said. “And if it looks like we’re going to be dealing with anything in the way of precipitation, we’ll certainly be communicating well with the general public.”

Motorists are encouraged to monitor the changing weather conditions and adjust their driving as necessary. Even if little snow and ice are produced by the front, it could be enough to make driving hazardous, especially on bridges and overpasses. Don’t attempt to pass slower vehicles; be patient and courteous, stay alert, and if your vehicle goes into a skid, Lt. Steve Preston with the Florida Highway Patrol says don’t panic.

“Steer into the skid, and that should right your vehicle,” Preston said. “You also have to be aware that when you have icy conditions, that you don’t brake abruptly or accelerate abruptly.”

The precipitation should be ending on Saturday, with daytime highs only in the 40s. Gusty northerly winds at around 15-25 miles an hour will also drive down wind chills.

And there is some light – and heat – at the end of the tunnel. Forecasters at this point say after the brush with winter this weekend, a warmup is on tap, with high temps returning to around the 70 degree mark by the middle of next week.