Powerful winter storm rattles North Florida, prompts multicounty closures
A massive cold front plowing through North Florida causes many schools and government services to shut down Tuesday.

Palm Tree Before a Tropical Storm or Hurricane
The weather system and front is expected to blast North Florida areas with winds equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane.

A powerful winter storm plowing through much of the central and the eastern portions of the United States has caused many North Florida schools and municipal governments to close.

Tornado watches have been posted in Tallahassee and in areas such as Leon County, much of Florida’s Panhandle, the entire Florida Big Bend area along the Gulf Coast and into the Tampa area. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service offices located at the Jacksonville International Airport issued an “enhanced severe storm risk” for Tuesday.

The winter weather system and front, which is draping the landscape from the Midwest south to the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to blast North Florida areas with winds up to 70 to 80 mph, which is the wind equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane. A squall line along the Interstate 10 corridor through North Florida is expected to run across the area from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday night.

Multiple school districts have closed for Tuesday and in Jacksonville every major college and university has shut down.

“The safety and security of our students, faculty and staff are our top priority,” said a statement from the University of North Florida on its decision to cancel Tuesday classes and close all offices. Jacksonville University echoed the same sentiment as both institutions announced their shutdowns late Monday as the storm approached.

Florida State College at Jacksonville waited until Tuesday morning to cancel classes and close offices, but pulled the trigger on the closure just before 9 a.m. “This is a precaution to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” the college’s statement said.

Even Jacksonville City Hall closed city government offices as Duval County schools shut down all operations for Tuesday.

While heavy rains, possible hail and even watches for tornadoes are at peak alert for most North Florida counties, the National Weather Service is issuing warnings for mariners as well. Gale conditions are expected on waters with sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph in Southeast Georgia into North Florida Tuesday.

All government and educational institutions closed Tuesday are expected to return to full operations Wednesday.

Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at [email protected].


One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    January 9, 2024 at 11:49 am

    Can it be a coincidence that Iowa’s weather is in Florida today, the very same day Rhonda is in Florida?

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