Health Alert Issued Following McDavid Train Derailment

January 30, 2014

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County has issued a health alert following a train derailment Tuesday night in McDavid.

Twenty-three cars of a 69-car CSX train derailed about 6:20 p.m. on a north-south track almost behind the McDavid Sawmill . Reports from the scene indicated that a bridge and railroad tracks in the area were totally destroyed by the derailment.

Two tanker cars  of phosphoric acid were submerged in Fletcher Creek with other cars landing on top of them. Officials said Wednesday that there was evidence of small leak from one of those cars.

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County advises against contacting, consuming, or otherwise using, water from Fletcher Creek obtained from the immediate vicinity of the train derailment site.

A small number of homes on Cotton Lake Road were evacuated as a precaution, and an emergency shelter was opened by the America Red Cross at the Molino Community Complex. Just one family took advantage of the shelter before officials gave the all-clear for residents to return to the homes.

An Escambia County spokesman said a crash investigation would be conducted by CSX. He said it  may take crews several weeks to make repairs to tracks at the bridge at that location.

Photos by Rebecca Brasch for

ALERT – Highway 97 Open, Highway 29 Open

January 30, 2014

[Update 1:30 pm.} Roadways in the North Escambia are once again open.

Highway 97 and Highway 29 are both open. There is some ice remaining on the northbound Canoe Creek Bridge at last report. The Highway 4 bridge between Century and Jay is also open with some ice.

There are no specific openings or closures on the county roads in North Escambia. However, there is ice on some less traveled road and ice on many county road bridges as of 1:30 p.m.

Pictured top:  Vehicles that did not make a hill on Highway 97 when it was iced over. The roadway is now thawed and open. The Highway 4 bridge between Century and Jay open this morning, but icy. Photos for, click to enlarge.

State Of Emergency: Schools, Most Things Closed Through Thursday

January 30, 2014

All public schools will be closed in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in Florida and Escambia County, AL, Escambia Academy and Brewton City for Thursday.

Escambia County (FL) has declared a State of Emergency  until midnight Thursday.  Escambia County has closed all offices Wednesday and Thursday with only essential personnel reporting to Emergency Operations Center.  Travel is not recommended  Wednesday or Thursday due to ice accumulations on  roadways in Escambia County.


  • All public schools, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Escambia (AL), Baldwin, Mobile, Brewton City
  • Thursday night’s National Junor Honor Society induction at Ernest Ward Middle will be rescheduled.
  • Pensacola State College –  All campuses and centers of PSC will be closed  through Thursday.
  • University of West Florida — All campuses closed, all activities canceled for Thursday.
  • Temple Christian Academy (Atmore) closed  Thursday.
  • Pensacola Christian Academy will be closed on Thursday
  • All Catholic Schools in Escambia County will be closed Thursday.
  • Escambia Academy (Canoe, AL) will be closed on  Thursday.
  • All county offices in Escambia County (FL & AL) closed on Thursday.
  • Community Action Program will be closed Wednesday.
  • East Hill Christian School closed Thursday.
  • Jefferson Davis Community College, Atmore and Brewton, closed  Thursday.
  • All Florida Department of Health locations are closed and services suspended on Thursday.
  • Escambia and Santa Rosa County and Circuit Courts closed on  Thursday.
  • City of Pensacola, Town of Century, Town of Jay, Town of Flomaton  closed Thursday.
  • Escambia Christian School will be closed  Thursday
  • All programs and offices of United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Florida, Capstone Academy Pensacola and Milton, Childrens Services Center and Milton Child Care Center will be closed  Thursday. Programs will resume on Thursday, January 30 at their usual times
  • West Florida Public Libraries will be closed Thursday
  • ARC Gateway, closed  Thursday
  • Development Review Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday at Central Office Complex at 1 p.m. and has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 5, at 1 p.m.
  • The County Administrator interviews scheduled for Thursday, January 30 and the Special Board of County Commission Meeting to discuss County Administrator candidates on Friday, January 31 have been canceled.
  • Naval Air Station Pensacola (NASP) will continue to restrict access to all but Category 5 personnel on Wednesday January 29. Category 5 personnel are those required to maintain emergency, fire and security services. A decision to resume normal operations on Thursday will be made after effects of weather are evaluated.
  • ECUA residential collections for Wednesday will be made on Thursday. Thursday’s collections will be on Friday, and Friday’s collections will be made on Saturday.


Due to weather conditions the following programs and offices will be closed Thursday. They will resume normal operations on Frida at their normal times.

  • ARC Gateway
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast (seven clubs located in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties)
  • Catholic Charities
  • Children’s Home Society
  • The Community Action Program Head Start and All other Community Action Programs
  • The Epilepsy Resource Center (ERC)
  • Lutheran Services of North Florida
  • Manna Food Pantries
  • United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Florida Offices
  • UCP’s Capstone Academy Pensacola and Milton
  • UCP’s Children’s Services Center and Milton Child Care Center
  • USO Northwest Florida

Partial Closures or unique operations are as follows:

  • Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE) will be represented at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) throughout the current level 2 activation and BRACE LLC staff will be onsite at Heritage Oaks, however, BRACE staff will work from their homes on Tuesday and Wednesday until weather conditions allow for safe travel to and from work.
  • Health & Hope Clinics located in Pensacola and Century (9am-11:30a clinics closed). They will make a decision regarding whether or not to open their later clinics at 10am Thursday. (5pm-8pm clinics)
  • United Way of Escambia County will suspend opening of the office until 1pm on Thursday the 30.  2-1-1 information and referral agents will be available 24/7
  • The YMCA will NOT provide school age childcare on January 30 and currently plan to keep the branches closed until Noon tomorrow.

Please do not email, use the comment form or contact us asking about closures. The latest closure information we have will be listed in this story and updated 24/7.

Scott Outlines Nearly $74.2 Billion Budget

January 30, 2014

Unwrapping a couple of new highlights after a weeks-long rollout, Gov. Rick Scott released a nearly $74.2 billion budget Wednesday that would leave total state spending relatively flat, slash taxes and boost funding for education and child welfare.

Most of the major components of Scott’s proposal — which is expected to be reshaped by the Legislature — had already been revealed in previous events. But the blueprint released Wednesday included at least two notable items: an increase in the exemption from the corporate income tax that would cost the state $21.6 million, and up to $70 million for land conservation efforts.

During remarks to Florida reporters and editors, Scott touted the economic turnaround the state has seen during his tenure and the tax and fee cuts that he placed at the center of his budget plan. That plan includes about $400 million in savings for motorists by rolling back vehicle-registration fee increases approved in 2009.

“My message to the people of Florida is this: It’s your money,” Scott said during an annual Associated Press event at the Capitol. “We want you to keep it in your pockets. Invest in your hopes, invest in your dreams.”

According to Scott’s office, the budget would actually be reduced by 0.1 percent. The increases in spending would be bankrolled or offset by an increase in local property tax revenues; $287 million in savings; and $222 million in trust-fund sweeps.

The full budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 provides some details of Scott’s already-announced proposals. The governor had touted a $542 million increase to education funding earlier in the week, but the spending plan released Wednesday showed that $374.7 million of that money would come from rising local property taxes powered by an increase in property values.

Scott brushed aside criticisms that the increase in the education budget, which would boost per-pupil spending by $168.59, was too small. It would still fall about $177 short of high-water mark for education funding during the 2007-08 school year. Scott pointed to measures that show the state’s students doing better in the classroom.

“We’re heading in the right direction, and we’re investing the right amounts of money,” he said.

The Florida Forever conservation-program increase would include $30 million in funding and the ability to use up to $40 million from the sale of state property for land purchases. But a similar land-sale program approved last year has failed to raise much money, with Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, calling it “a disaster.”

The Florida Forever Coalition, a group of environmental organizations, said the new plan wasn’t adequate.

“Funds from the sale of non-conservation lands is an appropriate but uncertain source for Florida Forever,” the coalition said in a statement. “Florida’s identified conservation needs are much greater than the governor’s proposal.”

Scott would hold $1.7 billion in reserve and plow $1.1 billion into the state’s rainy-day fund. The Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund would sit at $600 million, while $1.7 billion would be held in other trust funds.

Legislative Republicans were largely receptive to the proposal, though they signaled they have ideas of their own. Appearing with House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said they would push for tax cuts that “target low-income and working Floridians.”

Asked if Scott’s proposals to lower a tax on commercial leases and to increase the corporate tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000 would fit that definition, Gaetz said they would not.

“But what the speaker and I have said is that the one area we have agreed upon is the [reduction in] tag and title fees, which affect every working Floridian and every Floridian who has to drive to school, is going to be the centerpiece of our tax cut package,” Gaetz said. “These other areas, we’re certainly willing to look at, but we think that the centerpiece of the tax cut package has to be broad-based and affect working families.”

The two leaders, though, also threw their weight behind one of Scott’s long-time goals by promising not to increase tuition in the higher education system.

House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, rejected Scott’s characterization of the proposal as “historic,” particularly in terms of education funding.

“Historic disappointment — that’s what’s historic about this governor’s budget,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, suggested that Scott was politically motivated in some of the budget recommendations.

“Four years ago, Rick Scott spent $70 million of his own money to win the election,” Smith said. “This year, he’s preparing to spend $500 million of Floridians’ tax dollars to do the same thing.”

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Gulf Power: Over 46,000 Lost Power This Week

January 30, 2014

During this week’s winter storm, Gulf Power Company says 46,749 customers lost power at some point.

As of 10:00 Wednesday night, Gulf Power had restored electricity to all but about 430 customers as crews continued to work into the early morning hours. Gulf Power Company crews had help from reinforcements from sister companies Alabama Power and Mississippi Power to help restore electricity in the areas hardest hit by the winter storm.

Many of the remaining outages are scattered across the area, but Gulf Power said they should  finish repair efforts on Thursday.

Photos: Hundreds Of Reader Ice, Snow Photos

January 30, 2014 readers submitted literally hundreds of snow and ice storm pictures. We’ve included about 400 of those photos in the galleries below.

For a photo gallery of Wednesday snow/ice storm photos, click here.

For more photos,  click here .

For a photo gallery of Tuesday night ice storm and snow photos, click here.

For photos from earlier Tuesday, click here

To submit your photos, visit our Facebook page, or email

Pictured top: Welcome to Florida, looking closed for business and nothing like the Sunshine State. Pictured inset: Harley Tagert of Jay plays in the snow. Pictured below: A postcard like scene from Bluff Springs. Reader submitted photos for, click to enlarge.

Northview What-A-Night, Ernest Ward Honor Society Canceled

January 30, 2014

Events scheduled for tonight at Ernest Ward Middle School and Northview High School have been canceled.

A National Junior Honor Society Induction planned for tonight at Ernest Ward Middle School will be rescheduled.

A Northview High School band fundraising event planned for tonight at Century’s What-A-Burger restaurant has been canceled and will be rescheduled for a future date.

Deputies Seek Suspects In Burglary Of Nine Mile Target Store

January 30, 2014

The  Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is looking for two suspects in the burglary of Target on Nine Mile Road.

The suspects were caught on video using a brick to destroy the glass front doors of the business during the early morning hours of January 26. Anyone having information on the identity of the suspects is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (850) 433-STOP.

The Big Thaw Now, 70 By Sunday

January 30, 2014

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 28. Calm wind.
  • Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 60. Calm wind becoming southeast around 5 mph in the morning.
  • Friday Night: Patchy fog. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 41. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm.
  • Saturday: A 20 percent chance of showers after 8am. Patchy fog before 8am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 69. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Saturday Night: A 50 percent chance of showers. Patchy dense fog. Otherwise, cloudy, with a low around 59. Southeast wind around 5 mph.
  • Sunday: Showers likely, with thunderstorms also possible after noon. Cloudy, with a high near 72. Southwest wind 5 to 10 mph becoming north in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
  • Sunday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before midnight, then rain likely after midnight. Cloudy, with a low around 50. North wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
  • Monday: A 30 percent chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 59. Northeast wind 5 to 10 mph.
  • Monday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 54. Northeast wind around 10 mph.
  • Tuesday: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 68.
  • Tuesday Night: A 50 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 55.
  • Wednesday: A 20 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 55.
  • Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 32.
  • Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 51.

Pictured top: A cold sun glistens on an icy field in Walnut Hill Wednesday afternoon. photo, click to enlarge.

Frozen: Stay Off The Roads

January 29, 2014

Every major bridge and roadway in Escambia County is either closed or experiencing major issues, according to Escambia County Emergency Management.

Every roadway in the North Escambia area has ice on the roadway, and that at ice will not melt today with a high expected only in the 20’s. Highway 29 is impassable; there have been numerous accidents, vehicles into ditches (including an Escambia County EMS ambulance) and jack-knifed 18-wheelers.  Highway 97 is practically impassable due to ice.  Vehicles are unable to travel up a hill near Wiggins Lake Road.

Highway 29 is closed for the night from Bluff Springs Road to Cox Road. Highway 97 is closed from Arthur Brown Road to Kansas Road in Walnut Hill. There are no detours; drivers should avoid the area altogether.

The smaller county roads in the North Escambia area are in even worse condition.

It’s no better in Pensacola, with many roads closed and most of the area impassable.

“Traveling local roadways at this time can be a life threatening decision,” according to Escambia County Public Safety.

Air travel is also shutdown at the Pensacola International Airport. The airport has ceased all aircraft operation.

Pictured top: Two jack-knifed 18-wheelers on Highway 29 south of Century. Pictured below: An impassable Highway 97 near Davisville. Pictured bottom: An iced-over Delta plane at Pensacola International Airport. Photos for, click to enlarge.

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