WFTV heads north to track icy conditions in Northern Florida

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PENSACOLA, Fla. - Channel 9's Tim Barber spent Wednesday on the road, heading up to Tallahassee where ice has been causing big problems all day.

There have been 47 cancellations and 95 delays at Orlando International Airport Wednesday, according to officials.

During the drive, Barber and his crew pulled into a rest stop on Interstate 10 where they began seeing sleet coming down.

For the most part, it was mostly rain falling but the further north Barber got, the more problems there were.

Most residents in the western Panhandle remained indoors and off the roads as freezing temperatures caused a layer of ice and dusting of snow to linger.

Emergency officials said Wednesday afternoon that numerous bridges in the western Panhandle could remain closed through Thursday morning because of the icy conditions.

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 said all roads and bridges in that area were iced over Wednesday.

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

In central Florida, rain is increasing across the area and will continue to bring wet weather through Thursday.

That front will bring not only rain, but dropping temperatures will give wind chills in the 30s tonight, said WFTV chief meteorologist Tom Terry

Terry said temperatures will likely stay in the upper 30s to mid 40s Wednesday night, but colder air just north could make for slick bridges and overpasses closer to I-10.

"With the cold weather moving in and the wet weather tonight, it could be the recipe for a brief wintry mix north of Marion and Flagler counties. A few wet flakes could mix in just to our north," said Terry.

 Temperatures are expected to stay cool through Thursday before returning to the 70s on Friday.