It’s been chilly in Northwest Florida the past few nights, with temperatures approaching and occasionally dipping below freezing. Fortunately, those cold nights have been clear nights.
Last year we weren’t so lucky. Escambia County Emergency Management Chief John Dosh was being a bit understated last year when he said "It's a little challenging because we're not really equipped to handle these icing and snow conditions". Of all the potential emergencies officials plan for in Northwest Florida, an ice storm is pretty close to the bottom of the list. That’s no longer the case.
"We looked back at out lessons learned from last year and we've made some vast improvements here in Northwest Florida as far as the Florida Department of Transportation goes". Ian Satter is a spokesperson for the Florida DOT. We've purchased winter weather equipment to be able to handle those icy conditions, including snow plows and salt spreaders." Satter also says they have sent staff to northern states like New York and Minnesota for training on how to use that equipment.
During the ice storm last year the area reacted almost like preparing for a hurricane, with the emergency operations center activated, shelters ready to take people who lose power and utilities bringing in extra crews to restore any downed power lines as quickly as possible. The only thing that couldn’t be quickly prepared for was the icy roads. Ian Satter says they now have the equipment to take care of those roads. "We have five snow plows...here in Northwest Florida that we can distribute all across anywhere from Escambia to Jefferson County". They also have salt spreaders and chemical deicing spreaders that can be attached to DOT trucks and dispatched across the region. They also have thousands of pounds of salt which is being stored in FDOT operations centers around the region. "We have salt stored in Panama City, we have salt stored in Ponce de Leon, in Midway, in Marianna as well as Milton".
While last year’s storm didn’t require it, Satter says agencies in other states would be ready to assist getting things back to normal, again, just like they would do during a hurricane emergency. The really good news is, though there are some cold nights forecast over the next ten days, those nights are also forecast to be clear.