• ITVI.USA
    11,095.550
    -126.500
    -1.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    15.880
    -0.310
    -1.9%
  • OTVI.USA
    11,081.180
    -123.910
    -1.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.900
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.520
    0.160
    6.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.860
    0.020
    1.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.310
    0.140
    12%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.260
    0.100
    4.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.260
    0.040
    3.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.730
    0.150
    5.8%
  • WAIT.USA
    103.000
    -17.000
    -14.2%
  • ITVI.USA
    11,095.550
    -126.500
    -1.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    15.880
    -0.310
    -1.9%
  • OTVI.USA
    11,081.180
    -123.910
    -1.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.900
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.520
    0.160
    6.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.860
    0.020
    1.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.310
    0.140
    12%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.260
    0.100
    4.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.260
    0.040
    3.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.730
    0.150
    5.8%
  • WAIT.USA
    103.000
    -17.000
    -14.2%
NewsWeather and Critical Events

Wildfires still burning in drought-stricken Florida Panhandle

Evacuations, highway shutdowns ensue

Wildfires in at least three different parts of the Florida Panhandle continued burning through the night Wednesday into Thursday morning, one of them stopping traffic in its tracks.

According to the Florida Forest Service, the Five Mile Swamp Fire in Santa Rosa County grew to almost 10 times its size from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning, now covering about 2,000 acres. This fire began Monday afternoon near Milton, Florida, just east of Pensacola. So far it has burned dozens of buildings and was only 35% contained as of 10 a.m. CT Thursday.

Because of thick smoke from the fire, the Florida Highway Patrol shut down a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 Wednesday afternoon. It didn’t reopen until earlier Thursday.

People evacuated more than 1,000 homes as multiple crews, including 18 tractor units, worked to get the fire under control.

In nearby Walton County, Florida, a separate wildfire broke out Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of 500 families and burning 18 structures. Fifteen tractors were dispatched to the scene, the Florida Forest Service said early Thursday morning.

Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkins said he expects the apparently human-caused fire to continue burning throughout Thursday.

“It boils down to an illegal burning,” Adkins said in a broadcast on social media, adding that he had been in contact with state agricultural law enforcement authorities and expected an arrest shortly.

The South Walton Fire district said on Facebook that the fire in that county burned 575 acres and was 60% contained by around 2 a.m. Thursday, but the Florida Fire Service said in a tweet around the same time that the size and containment were unknown.

Another, smaller fire of roughly 60 acres in Escambia County, at the state’s northwestern edge, also burned on Wednesday.

Unusually dry conditions have persisted across much of the Florida Panhandle since fall, making it easy for wildfires to start. Recent windy weather has helped spread the fires quickly.

Almost half of Florida is listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor as “abnormally dry,” the lowest drought category; 22% is in “moderate drought”, with almost 9% in a “severe drought.”

Jonathan Erdman, senior meteorologist with weather.com, said “Pensacola, Florida, usually a reliably wet part of the northern Gulf Coast in spring, has only picked up 43% of its average rain since March 1.”

Pensacola has received 4.59 inches of rain since March. To date, this is 6.2 inches below the city’s normal spring rainfall.

A cold front will move through northern Florida on Friday night into early Saturday, producing some rainfall. That may not be enough to extinguish the fires, however, and winds may still gust up to 20 mph even after the rain quickly fades.

Tags
Show More

Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his nearly 20 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.
Close