Florida has first measurable snowfall in decades

By Vivian El-Salawy on January 4, 2018

Typical Florida winters consist of trips to the beach, with an average of seventy-degree weather and some humidity here and there but certainly not snow. However, this winter, residents in both North and Central Florida are experiencing their first measurable snowfall in decades.

Alachua County Public Schools, or ACPS, made the decision to close all schools and offices between Wednesday, January 3rd and Thursday, January 4th based on advisory issued by the National Weather Service, reopening schools and offices on the Friday of that week.

Image via Alachua County Public Schools

Upon receiving concerns from local families, ACPS followed up with the release of a statement that expressed their own concerns of a number of weather-related issues. According to the National Weather Service, the primary concerns included freezing rain and slippery roads, which would be a significant hazard for buses and students heading to school on the roadways. ACPS posted on their official Facebook page stating:

“Closing schools is not a decision we make lightly. We recognize this is a real headache for families, but safety has to be the first consideration.”

While the potential for light snow in Gainesville caused a hassle for some, this was the first time that many Floridians had even witnessed snow in the first place.

Tallahassee got its own “winter wonderland” for the first time in nearly thirty years, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, which included sleet, freezing rain, and measurable snow. Many Tallahassee residents expressed joy, finding snow on their cars, their lawns, and finding the many fountains around Florida State’s campus frozen for the first time in a while. Rooftops, parking garages, and local parks, were covered in a light blanket of frost, dragging out the holiday season. Others expressed frustration, with no appropriate wardrobe for legitimate winter conditions.

Image via Pexels

According to the Weather Service in Tallahassee, while Tallahassee gets traces of snow every once in a while, there have only been seven incidents of measurable snow since 1891. Tallahassee residents joyously wrote their names into the snow, followed by “Florida” and the date of snowfall.

Why do Florida schools and offices shut down at the sudden potential for snowfall?

Florida is simply not equipped to handle snow. To many northern states, it sounds silly to shut down schools because of one inch of snow when many schools up north proceed with multiple feet of snow on a regular basis. However, it must be considered that many of the drivers for both public and school transportation, as well as your average car driver, may have never seen snow in their life, much less driven on it. A driver’s capability to complete a smooth and safe stop is severely limited due to reduced traction in driving conditions such as rain, snow, or ice.

Additionally, the anticipation of black ice, which many Florida residents may not even know what may be, can be a hazard as well. Black ice is a transparent coating of ice, usually found in shadier or cooler parts of roads and other paved surfaces. Black ice is dangerous in that it may not be spotted by the driver, and there for the necessary precautions may not be used when driving in these areas.

While it may be aggravating to cancel classes or work, which may create a setback in schedules, or additional “snow/hurricane” days added to the end of a semester, these decisions are made with the consideration of the community’s safety first and foremost.

Image via Pexels

Tips and tricks for handling snowy or icy roads

  • Expect lower tire pressure – make sure that you have maintained your car before considering to drive on icy or snowy roads, especially your brakes and tires.
  • According to Safe Motorist, sand and salt play a huge role in terms of safety during times such as these. Salt is better to use prior to a storm to prevent from snow build-up, and also aids in snow removal. However, unlike salt, sand does not melt, and helps provide traction in slippery areas.
  • Make sure you test the road before you go for a legitimate drive. Take a spin around the neighborhood to make sure that you are comfortable before getting onto any major roads. You would not only put yourself at risk, but the cars around you as well.
  • Reduce your speed. In unsafe driving conditions, your safety and the safety of others around you are more important than where you may be going.
  • Maintain an appropriate interval between you and the vehicles around you.
  • Keep an eye out for black ice. Just because you may not see ice or snow on the road, doesn’t mean that it is safe for you to drive on.

All in all, be sure that you are safe this winter. Whether the roads are wet from rain, or covered in a thin layer of snow/ice, both serve to be dangerous. While the holiday season has mostly come to an end, keep in mind the value of family and those around you, and consider being mindful of others on the road.

Vivian El-Salawy is a graduate of Florida State University with a B.A. in Editing, Writing, and Media with minors in Slavic (Russian) Studies and Communications. Alongside writing for Uloop News, WVFS Tallahassee 89.7 FM, and editing for the Good Life Community magazine, she is heavily involved with a Tau Beta Sigma, a national honorary sorority that promotes women in the band profession.

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