More than 200 miles I-10 in Fla. Panhandle reopens

By Matt Horn, Reporter, Capitol News Service
News4Jax.com Staff, webteam@wjxt.com
Published On: Jan 30 2014 05:07:12 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 31 2014 09:03:18 AM EST

Icicles hang from DOT camera along Interstate 10 at Beulah Road in Florida's panhandle.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Florida transportation officials reopened I-10 in segments throughout the day Thursday, with the entire 200-mile stretched closed by ice and hazardous driving conditions open to traffic again by 6 p.m.

Milt Gernhart has been a trucker since the '80s. He's seen plenty of  winter weather in other parts of the country, but never in Florida.

“You wouldn’t think it's going be an issue, but as it turns out, it's an issue and you can’t move,” said Gernhart.

From the Alabama-Florida state line to mile marker 233 east of Tallahassee, I-10 was closed for more than 24 hours, forcing drivers to look for alternative routes.

“What we’re trying to do is protect all of our residents and visitors who come to our state," said Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Mark Welch. "It’s an inconvenience, we understand that, but it’s a necessary one.”

Across the Panhandle, inexperienced drivers were unable to drive on icy roads. Roads, bridges and schools across the Panhandle were closed for the second day to the unusual winter storm.

“I lost control last night coming across and thank God I made it safe," Gernhart said. "But in the meantime, I saw a bunch of cars off the shoulder.”

Parts of I-10 started to reopen early Thursday afternoon, but, more than 190 miles were still closed around 2 p.m., leaving miles of traffic backed up.

Jasper Simmons and his family have been stuck in Tallahassee since Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s been like, 20-some hours, it's been a minute," said Simmons. "We didn’t expect to have to get a hotel, but we had to.”

The last winter storm to cripple Florida was the Christmas storm of 1989.

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