Hathaway Bridge Reopens, New Problem Arises

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PANAMA CITY BEACH - Bay County drivers are finally getting some relief as authorities reopened all of the area bridges, but it didn't happen for the Hathaway Bridge and the fly-over until late Thursday afternoon.

Bay County drivers had their patience tested as they sat in heavy traffic most of the day Thursday.

Freezing weather conditions forced sporadic lane closures on both sides of the bridge all day.

"Like I said it's ridiculous, but you know, we're just being patient. Waiting for everyone to get over the bridge so that we can have our turn," said one driver.

"It just reminds me of me being in Iowa with my wife where she's from. Kind of just wants you to stay in," said another driver.

As temperatures rose, ice melted and mixed with sand on the bridge. Florida Department Of Transportation crews closed some lanes to clean up the sloshy mess.

The cold weather also damaged the bridge's rubber bladders which protect the joints.

"With the rubber bladders there, we had some contraction and then those rubber joints just shattered and split because of that and then once the bridge warms back up again. You'll see that expanded as we fill those with the rubber bladders, that probably will be fixed," said Ian Satter with Florida DOT.

Satter says there's no structural damage to the bridge and expects those repairs to take place in the next few days.

That damage is not covered under the bridge's 10 year warranty. So the Department of Transportation will pay for the repairs.

Officials are assuring drivers that the bridge is safe to drive on.

DOT officials are learning some lessons after this run in with extreme cold weather. They're considering buying salt to put on roads and bridges to help with future icing situations.