The winter weather is wreaking havoc on state roads in Northeast Florida. A 200-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from the Florida/Alabama line was closed earlier Wednesday. Those closures included dozens of bridges in Florida's panhandle.
"It appears like it's not going to get too much worse," said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Patrick Tomason. "The weather appears to be lifting, but I don't know. We'll let John Gaughan tell us about the weather part of it.”
Wednesday night FHP was preparing for Mother Nature again, this time in Northeast Florida, where Thursday morning is expected to bring more wet, cold weather, with possibilities of freezing bridges.
The FHP said Mother Nature is unpredictable, so anything in Florida could happen. That’s why troopers are monitoring bridges every hour on the hour to make sure they’re safe.
“I’m on 95, checking the bridge on 95, and also the bridge on US 1, and there’s two other troopers who are concentrating on the state line on down to I-10 and back,” said Tomason.
In Nassau County, FHP is watching four bridges to make sure no dangerous ice is forming, making it unsafe for drivers to pass.
“I’ll do a little brake check and observe the roadway. It might get worse when it gets darker, when you can’t see the obvious ice, look on the shoulder in the places where water accumulates to see if the water is freezing and sometimes just stop and look,” said Tomason.
The main concern around the bridges is something called evaporational cooling, which can chill water to freezing. It’s caused by dry air cooling water to the point of freezing, so even if the air temperature is above freezing, surfaces like bridges can freeze first.
“Trying to slow down rapidly, and also just traveling too fast, and if something happens they (drivers) panic, they either over-steer or they brake too hard, if there’s ice, you’re just going to lose control,” said Tomason.
With a dozen more bridges already closed in Florida’s western panhandle counties, troopers said all hands are on deck with the possibility of bridges freezing in Northeast Florida.
"We'd probably start the detour on State Road 200 and set it toward Yulee or Callahan. Once there's no more bridges, there's not another bridge on the east side, so we'd have to send everybody to Callahan and hopefully the bridge at US 1 wouldn't be frozen at the same time,” said Tomason.
FHP said they will be bringing in additional troopers to help monitor bridges. FHP is equipped with extra cones, detour signs and flashing message boards to alert drivers to any potential problems.