Communities west of Leon were hit worse; schools set to open

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A band of winter weather across the Panhandle closed Interstate 10 on Wednesday from Jefferson County to the Alabama state line and left some Tallahassee streets impassable as temperatures hovered below the freezing mark.

Wednesday night, Tallahassee Police officers closed a stretch of Apalachee Parkway that crosses over Franklin Boulevard and Capital Circle Northeast near Raymond Diehl Road due to icy conditions, and they recommended motorists avoid Orange Avenue and Spring Hill Road.

Other roads that were closed included Capital Circle NW, South Monroe Street at Gaines Street, Centerville Road at I-10 and stretches of Bronough and Duval streets.

Also, the Florida Department of Transportation closed I-10 from Jefferson County to Escambia County and rerouted traffic onto U.S. 90 instead.

The length of time the roads would be closed was dictated by the point when they were determined safe to pass, police and DOT officials said.

Thursday morning it will be business as usual for Leon County Schools, Florida A&M and Florida State with a forecast of blue skies and a high temperature of 46 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Tallahassee.

Leon County Schools spokesman Chris Petley said his district has taken the necessary steps to determine schools will safely open this morning. Parents will receive an email first thing in the morning explaining details.

Weather Service forecasters canceled a winter storm warning early Wednesday afternoon for the Big Bend, which had originally called for an entire day of freezing moisture and frigid temps that would have led to slick roads. The less ominous prediction led Leon County Schools officials to resume classes today.

"The winter storm warning for our area was lifted a little earlier than anticipated," said John Hukiar, Leon County Schools security chief. "There are no road closures in our county. We had a report from public works that bridges were being sanded. All of those factors together lead us to the decision to open schools."

The storm began Tuesday evening with steady showers and temperatures in the 30s by midnight. Those conditions lasted until about 7 a.m. when the mercury dropped to 32 degrees and a mix of sleet and rain began to fall. The threat of icy roadways prompted schools across the region to close.

Despite concerns of slick streets, no major traffic issues were reported to Tallahassee Police and the Leon county Sheriff's Office. Florida Highway Patrol troopers assigned to an eight-county district that includes Tallahassee responded to 21 crashes during the storm, according to Lt. Jeff Frost, department spokesman.

A weather service gauge in Killearn Estates recorded a tenth of an inch of sleet.

A total of 864 customers with the city of Tallahassee's utility department briefly lost power and there were two calls for crews to spread sand on icy streets.

"By the time those crews arrived, everything had melted, so I guess that was a good thing," city spokeswoman Lizzy Kelley said.

The inclement weather also was the culprit for morning flight cancellations and delays at the airport. We have had considerable delays today. I've got a handful more flights that they haven't officially canceled yet," said Jim Durwin, Tallahassee Regional Airport operations superintendent.

Flights this morning could also see problems that stem from storm-walloped connecting cities such as Atlanta and travelers should check with airlines.

City crews worked well into the night monitoring the 19 bridges they maintain and applying sand, just in case. Bridges overseen by Leon County saw some icing, so crews applied sand and installed cautionary barricades.

"It still can be potentially slick in some areas so we're still asking for people to be cautious," said Kevin Peters, director of Leon County Emergency Management. "There still could be icing in low-lying areas."

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