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A Snow Day Without Snow

Because of the rare cold weather in Tallahassee, Florida State University canceled classes Wednesday, much to the delight of students, many of whom ventured outside -- buttoned up from head to toe -- to catch a glimpse of their first snowfall and snap shots of frozen fountains.But, when a group of students arrived at one fountain, they were sorely disappointed. Instead of a still and frozen body of water, they were greeted by the sound of rushing water.

That didn’t stop FSU student Lauren Rodriguez, however. She painstakingly collected ice from her dorm room window and was determined to make a snow man.

“We found a bunch of snow on the roof of our dorm. So, we opened the window and tied a spoon to the end of a Swiffer to dig it out and put it in this bucket and then we wanted to build a snow man,” Rodriguez said.

Florida Public Radio Meteorologist Jeff Huffman said Rodriguez’s snowman isn’t really made of snow at all. Huffman says what fell in Tallahassee Wednesday was more like hail. 

Credit Jeff Huffman / WUFT
Radar image taken at 9:30 Wednesday morning show the winter storm crossing over Northwest Florida.

“It is a mixture of freezing rain and sleet. The air aloft - it’s still got some warm air in it - temperatures are above freezing a few thousand feet off the ground. So, what is falling upstairs is snow, melting briefly and then refreezes on its way down as either sleet pellets on its way down or possibly collects on the ground and freezes,” Huffman clarified.

Still, transportation officials in Northwest Florida weren’t taking any chances. They closed down much of Interstate 10 from Tallahassee to Pensacola. Department of Transportation spokesperson Donna Greene said her department took the precaution because Florida drivers aren’t used to icy roads.

“For Northwest Florida, we are not accustomed to having ice on our roadways. We are accustomed, or we have experienced hurricanes, we have experienced water. But, this is ice and you cannot control your traction on ice. So, we’re just asking people to be very cautious because there’s so much ice on the roadways,” Greene explained.

Transportation officials started preparing for the icy conditions Tuesday night by sending out extra patrols and monitoring the weather. And Greene’s colleagues are prepared for any further winter surprises in the Sunshine State – even if drivers aren’t. But Huffman insisted Florida’s winter will be short-lived.

“This winter storm kind of represents the end of the extreme winter pattern the eastern nation has been experiencing over the last month or so. The pattern is changing across the nation. There will be a dramatic warm up heading into the weekend and I don’t think we’re going to experience quite the winter weather like we have the rest of the season,” Huffman said.

Tallahassee’s weekend forecast calls for sunshine and highs in the mid-seventies heading into next week.