7 Florida counties, 4 in Georgia cancel school Thursday

Administrators worry about hazardous driving conditions

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - 11 counties in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia cancelled school for Thursday.

Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Hamilton, Nassau, Suwannee and Union counties in Florida and Brantley, Camden, Charlton and McIntosh counties in Georgia decided to cancel school because weather conditions could make morning driving hazardous.

"We were worried about a period of time, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. this evening until Thursday morning," said Nassau County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. John Ruis. "We have some area we're concerned about, the roads and perhaps some bridge that may have some ice."

Lighthouse Christian School announced that all eight of its campuses in Clay and Duval counties were closed Thursday.

Parents told Channel 4 Wednesday night that they didn't think school should be shut down Thursday.

‘There's not ice involved, just a little chilly. Put a little scarf on them and they'll be okay," said Melissa Bridley.

"Just a little inclement weather," said Bob Medley. "Got to find sitters and everything like that."

Ware County has decided to open schools on Thursday, but two hours later than normal to allow road conditions to clear.

Glynn and Pierce counties will reopen their schools Thursday.

Childtime Learning Center's locations in Kingland and St. Marys will be closed Thursday.  The Suwannee Valley 4Cs Head Start and Early Head Start centers in Columbia, Hamilton Lafayette and Suwannee counties will also close Thursday.

In Baker and Camden counties, students and all employees school are expected to stay home due to the potential for unsafe driving conditions.

In Nassau County, less than 12-month employees will not report to work on Thursday. Twelve-month employees are expected to report to work as travel conditions safely permit, likely by 10 a.m.

Camden County will reopen all other government offices on Thursday, and the cold weather shelter opened at Kingsland First United Church on Tuesday afternoon will remain open until 10 a.m. Thursday. No pets, weapons, drugs or alcohol are allowed in the shelter.

Parents, grandparents agree with decision; Others seek shelter

Wanda Walker, who has five grandchildren in school, along with other parents and grandparents who agree with the decision to close school Thursday.

"We have lots of roads that are not safe," she said. "I know it rained all night last night, so I didn't even know if they would have it today."

Emergency officials are warning people that this isn't something to take lightly.

"It will be a situation that we will continue to monitor and hope for the best but prepare for the worst," said Shayne Morgan, Columbia County Emergency Operations manager. "The potential for areas of roadways that may be frozen over; we've had rain the past couple of days and we haven't really had a chance for that rain to evaporate, so there might be patches where people might think that it's a puddle that's ahead of them but it's really something that's iced over."

Homeless aid organizations are worried about the less fortunate out on the streets. The cold, wet weather could be deadly for those who don't have a warm place to stay. That's why the people at Lake City's Catholic Charities are providing motel rooms for those who need them. It's a safe spot to spend the frigid next few days.

"There are no shelters, so they were trying to make arrangements really early the last couple of days," said Suzanne Edwards, CEO of Catholic Charities. "As late as 7:15 this morning, they were in our office looking to seek shelter."

And at the nearby United Way of Suwannee Valley, officials are giving out blankets and warm clothes. They say people who may have homes but are low on money have to be watchful because their energy bills will go up from all the heat, so they too need help.

"They're going to be receiving bills that are going to be more than they are used to, which trying to juggle that with their ongoing expenses," said Rita Dopp, executive director of the organization. "So I think we can expect to see an increased demand in requests for assistance just based on the fact that people are going to have increased expenses this winter due to their heating costs."

To make a donation to those in need, call Catholic Charities at 386-754-9180 or go to catholiccharitieslakecity.org. Or call the United Way of Suwannee Valley at 386-752-5604 or go to unitedwaysuwanneevalley.org.

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