A two-day storm that swept through the county last week shut down schools and businesses, closed the bridges and caused more than a few people to slip on their porches.
No serious injuries or traffic accidents were reported, though, and with balmy weather headed the county’s way, last week’s icy adventure look to be the last of the winter.
The public schools in the county were ordered closed both Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 29 and 30. Most children appeared to stay home, keeping warm during the chilly day.
Commerce was unimpeded on Wednesday but by the evening, with freezing rain, a decision was made by law enforcement officials to close the bridges.
First to shut down was the John Gorrie Bridge between Apalachicola and Eastpoint, which was shut down around 7 p.m. At 7:32 p.m., Lt. Allen Ham, the county’s 911 coordinator, had sent out a mass communication through the Code Red mass alert notification system, which combines landline and mobile telephone, email and text notifications.
“There was actually ice on the bridge and the driving conditions were unsafe,” said Ham.
The Carrabelle and St. George Island bridges were ordered closed within hours, and at 9:42 p.m. Ham sent out word that all bridges were closed.
At Tuesday morning’s county commission meeting, County Planner Alan Pierce commented on the storm, noting that 16 cars, including one of the EOC trucks, were trapped on the Gorrie Bridge by the freeze. He described the event as a “flash freeze. Because it had been so cold, for so long, when the temperature dipped below a certain point, all of the bridges froze. Every bridge in the county froze in 15 minutes. It was almost like you could see the ice form.”
Later, around midnight, Roberts and Roberts, formerly CW Roberts, came in with Transfield, a contractor with the Florida Department of Transportation, and sanded the Carrabelle Bridge, and then moved west to sand both other bridges.
The county commission Tuesday thanked Roberts and Roberts for brining truckloads of sand to clear the bridges during the early morning hours after the freeze.
Around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, law enforcement was escorting traffic across the bridges with marked patrol units, and the bridges officially opened around 9 a.m.
“Everything seemed to operate as expected,” said Ham. “Notifying the public is demanding and we get a lot of influx of calls to the dispatch center with people asking. That’s why we try to implement the Code Red to let everyone know.”
Ham said there were about 7000 calls made on the new system, plus text mobiles and email notifications. “If no answer, we’ll do one recall,” he said.
He said landlines are already in the database, but people have to call up, or got to the website at www.franklinsheriff.com to link with the system.
“They are not going to get notifications unless they sign up with their mobiles,” said Ham.
There were some concerns about communications from the EOC during the ice storm. Commissioner Smokey Parrish said he did not receive any communication from emergency management until around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, after the ice had thawed. Members of the press reported the same delay.
The storm that threw the county into lockdown was relatively minor when compared to historical events for late January. On Tuesday, Jan. 28, the high temperature was 60 degrees and the low dipped down to 37 overnight, compared to a record low of 21 for the same date set in 1986. The county experienced 0.3 inches of rain although humidity was high.
On Wednesday, Jan. 29, the temperature remained at 37 for the daily high and dipped down to 31 overnight. The was about 0.2 inches of rain and a trace of snow. The record for Jan 29 is also 21 degrees, set in 1928.
Temperatures experienced during the storm bottomed out at 9 degrees below the average low temperature for late January, which is 40 degrees.