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Winter alerts in effect as coldest air of the season arrives to Florida

The coldest air of the season so far is expected to arrive to Florida on Tuesday night. This airmass closely trails a cold front that continues to produce wintry precipitation and thunderstorms across the northern half of the state Tuesday afternoon. Near and below-freezing temperatures are expected across Florida's Panhandle and the northern half of the peninsula overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning. Freeze alerts have already been issued in advance of the sub-freezing temperatures.

Escambia County Public Schools will be closed Wednesday, Jan. 17. All extracurricular activities will be canceled for Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Santa Rosa County School District will be in session tomorrow. Okaloosa County schools will also be open Wednesday as well as The University of West Florida.

Early on Tuesday morning, a strong cold front was positioned near the Pensacola area. Widespread shower and thunderstorm activity had developed in the vicinity of the boundary. In the western Panhandle, temperatures fell to near freezing and there were some reports of freezing rain and wintry precipitation over interior sections of Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.

Throughout the remainder of the day Tuesday, the cold front will continue tracking southeastward through the Florida peninsula. Scattered downpours and thunderstorms will remain possible, and the environment will be marginally supportive of a few damaging wind gusts or brief tornadoes. Behind the front, winds will have a northerly component, and the coldest air of the season so far is expected to arrive to the Sunshine State.

Areas of the Panhandle and northern Florida are under a Hard Freeze Warning overnight, and lows could fall into the middle 20s for several temperatures. Further south, a Freeze Warning is in effect, where temperatures are also expected to fall below freezing for a few hours early Wednesday morning.

A Wind Chill Advisory is also in effect through 9 AM Wednesday. Winds are not expected to be particularly strong, but the addition of wind with the already cold temperatures could make it feel even colder. Wind chill values could be as low as the middle teens. Wednesday’s temperatures will remain much cooler than average. Highs Wednesday may only reach the 40s in some areas of north Florida. By Thursday morning, lows may be a tad warmer than Wednesday, but many areas could still register near or just below freezing. Widespread frost is expected, especially over the Panhandle and North Florida. However, on Thursday afternoon, highs should warm into the 60s ahead of another storm system that will bring showers by Thursday night. Another dose of cold air is slated to arrive by the weekend.

Cold weather shelter information:

For Escambia County:
The Waterfront Rescue Mission will open its cold weather shelter during the cold temps. Men can stay at Waterfront Rescue Mission at no charge, and Waterfront will work with ReEntry Alliance Pensacola to house women and children overnight. If no accommodation can be made, Waterfront will still shelter anyone during cold weather emergencies. Waterfront will remain open during the daytime to serve as a warming center for men, women, and children.

The REAP Max-Well Respite Center Transitional Housing Program extends an open invitation to all mothers and their children only who do not have a place to sleep during the night. Due to a limited amount of funding and space, this invitation can only be for a maximum three-night stay, and everyone must leave by 7 a.m. Check-in hours are 6-8 p.m. unless the Pensacola Police Department or the Escambia County Sheriff's Office call or come to the door with the mother and her children. A minimum amount of documentation will be required before check-in.

The REAP Max-Well Respite Center is located at 2200 N. Palafox St, Pensacola, Fla. 32501. For questions, the public may call 850-549-3541 or email inquiries@reapreentry.org.

My Father's Vineyard, located at 7895 Pensacola Blvd., has also opened as a cold weather shelter for men, women, and children. Check-in hours are between 6-8 p.m. until Monday, Jan. 22. No one will be admitted after 8 p.m. unless escorted by law enforcement. Breakfast and dinner will be provided. Those seeking shelter will need to leave by 8 a.m. the following morning. Additionally, ECAT will provide transportation at 8 a.m. from MFV to Waterfront Rescue Mission’s warming center. ECAT will also provide transportation back to MFV from Waterfront at 6 p.m. for overnight sheltering until Monday, Jan. 22.

For Santa Rosa County:
The cold weather shelter for the homeless and/or heatless at Ferris Hill Baptist Church, 6848 Chaffin St. in Milton, has added additional night and day hours. The shelter will remain open 24 hours a day until 7 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18. That evening, the shelter will reopen at 6:30 p.m. Those who would like to stay at the shelter must arrive between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. The shelter will close at 7 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 19.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, the shelter will be open 24 hours a day until 7 a.m. Monday, Jan. 22.

No one will be admitted after 8:30 p.m. each night unless brought in by law enforcement. Only service animals (with verification of rabies vaccination) are permitted to stay with guests.

To volunteer at the shelter, register here.

For Okaloosa County:
One Hopeful Place will be open cold night from Tuesday, Jan. 16 through 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 18.

Bus pickup will be at Bridgeway Center on Shell Avenue starting at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. The bus will make two runs for pick up on Tuesday and Wednesday and two runs on the 18th for drop off to Shell Ave at 9 a.m. There will be someone there for all participants to store excess bags and their bikes and to retrieve them on the morning of the 18th. If you have any questions, please call 850-376-5386.

The Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless will be open on nights of Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 16-17 starting at 6 p.m. each evening. The shelter is located at 120 Duggan Ave. in Crestview. Call 850-398-5670 for information.

Copyright 2024 Storm Center. To see more, visit wuwf.org.

Megan Borowski
William Maxham