Snowfall possible in Pensacola area

11:06 AM, Jan 6, 2010   |    comments
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Pensacola, Florida - Paul and Christopher Flounlacker have never seen snow.

But they better brace themselves. If the fluffy stuff comes to the Emerald Coast this week, the 6- and 9-year-old siblings will see it - no matter the hour.

"I'll wake them up at 2 in the morning if it starts snowing, and take them out," said their dad, Mike Flounlacker, 42. "It would be awesome."

Winter has come with a vengeance to the Pensacola Bay Area, as frigid temperatures are set to grip the region and even the white stuff is possible. Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Mobile say there is a 30 percent chance of snow flurries Thursday night.

Areas north of Pensacola, including Jay and Brewton, Ala., could see snow during the day Thursday, said weather service meteorologist Kirk Caceres. For points south, the chance will come later. No accumulation is expected.

"There will be a brief warming trend for eight to 12 hours (early Thursday) that will bring rain along with it," Caceres said. "As the sun goes down, it's going to get windy and the temperatures are going to drop. Any moisture that is left is going to turn from rain into sleet and from sleet into snow."

Friday, skies will clear, with lows Saturday and Sunday mornings expected in the high teens, he said. Wind chill could be in the single digits those mornings.

Cold takes its toll

Several nights of freezing temperatures already have taken a toll on some plumbing, said Sandra Chancellor, corporate secretary and service manager for Smith Plumbing and Heating Co. in Pensacola.

"We've had several people to call who have had water in their pipes that has frozen overnight," Chancellor said. "If the water has frozen in the pipes and there has been a split in the pipes, they may not know it until the water starts to thaw."

To prevent frozen pipes, she suggests wrapping all exposed outside pipes and faucets, and leaving both hot and cold water dripping at faucets.

"It's important to remember to leave the hot water dripping," Chancellor said. "Once that water is in the line, it gets cold after a while."

Chancellor also said the business has had several calls from people needing natural gas space heaters lit for the first time this season.

"They just haven't been started up yet this winter," Chancellor said.

The Lowe's in Gulf Breeze is selling a lot of pipe wrapping materials, faucet coverts, insulations and heaters, said Shawn Watkins, the store sales manager.

"Our shelves are almost empty," said Watkins. "This is just unusually cold for this areas. ... Mobile homes are going to use more than a house would because their pipes are exposed and there's not as much insulation underneath, and there are quite a few mobile homes out in this area."

'Some serious stuff'

The Council on Aging of West Florida, which serves 3,500 seniors in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, has been working overtime this week to make sure clients have adequate heating.

Although the group ran out of donated heaters Monday, Jeff Nall, vice president of marketing communications for the council, said more than 80 heaters, 30 blankets and $1,000 were donated Tuesday.

By mid-afternoon, he said the agency had no unmet need.

"Calls from seniors are (also) just ringing off the walls," Nall said. "A lot of older people ... have seen a lot in their lifetime. A lot of times, they think, 'Oh, I've gotten by before.' But the temperatures we're talking about this week could well be record low temperatures. People may be thinking, 'Yeah, I've been able to manage before, but this is some serious stuff.' "

Virginia Middleton, 71, of Pensacola, picked up an electric heater from the council Tuesday afternoon. She has central natural gas heating, but she said it's not enough.

"Last night and today has been real bad," Middleton said Tuesday. "This will make a big difference. ... It means a lot."

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Louis Cooper, Pensacola News Journal

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