John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Jan. 3, residents of Madison woke up to wet, cold and literally freezing conditions outside their homes. Icicles hanging from vehicles and rooftops was a sight not often seen in North Florida.
This significant weather event came from a severe arctic blast that began in the Arctic Ocean and entered into the northern US around New Year's Eve on Sunday, Dec. 31. Temperatures in New York and Chicago dropped to record-low's as the shot of bitter, cold air blasted through the region. As for North Florida, Madison experienced a low of 27 with a mix of freezing rain and sleet, forming slick ice in the early morning hours between 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. Cold winds came through Madison County at approximately eight to nine miles per hour.
On Tuesday, Jan. 2, Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a press release urging North Florida residents, travelers and business owners to prepare for the extreme cold conditions to come. Gov. Scott asked residents and travelers to stay put and avoid driving due to the impending icy conditions. Gov. Scott also issued tips on how to drive through extreme cold conditions such as being cautious and using care when driving and/or braking. Madison Emergency Management issued a Code Red advisory informing residents of the coming winter storm.
With the extreme, abnormal temperatures for North Florida, came the closure of major roads and bridges in Madison County. The Madison County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) and the Madison County Road Department (MCRD) announced the closure of Bellville Bridge and Sun Down Creek Bridge as well as the bridge that crosses the Withlacoochee river at the Georgia State Line on Colin Kelly Hwy. According to a report by the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), Interstate 10 from mile-marker 194, in Leon County to mile-marker 283, in Suwannee County was closed due to the conditions of the road after the winter storm. Traffic was redirected and many of the travelers originally traveling on Interstate 10 were detoured onto US Hwy. 90.
Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC) reported that 400 customers were without power at several different times throughout the day, throughout Madison County, Jefferson County and Taylor County, but crews were assigned immediately to restore the power.
Around 2 p.m., on Wednesday Jan. 3, ice began melting and falling off of the power lines, crashing onto the asphalt leaving nothing but a tiny puddle of water. Not only did power lines have ice, bridge rails, bush twigs and tree limbs were covered by thin, transparent layers of ice.