The Coastal Branch Library in South Walton became a shelter from the winter storm.

As the area shivered through an almost unprecedented freezing rain and ice storm, businesses, roads and city government were closed. But the library meeting room, which doubles as a shelter, remained open.

Volunteer Cindy Talty said the Coastal Branch Library provided shelter to 12 individuals Wednesday night during the deep freeze. She said a lot of those live in a camp in the woods in Destin and would probably be back Thursday night.

Another person who lives in the woods in South Walton had already left the shelter to go to his job in Blue Mountain Thursday morning, but she suspected he would also return.

One individual the shelter took in is a man named Todd who is temporarily homeless. Todd took shelter at the library Monday night and was still there Thursday morning.

Todd left his home in Minnesota on Dec. 1, he said, heading South. Since then, he has traveled to places such as Myrtle Beach, mostly by bike. He arrived in South Walton on Monday and said he hung out at the beach for a while before hearing about the shelter.

"I've biked my whole life," he told The Sun in a phone interview. "I had never seen the South on a bike and wanted to do that."

Todd said he has a home in Minnesota and normally works 10 months out of the year. He plans to head back home in March.

"If I had not heard about this shelter, I would have just kept riding," he said. "I have a warm sleeping bag and I keep three or four days of food on my bike. I just needed to get out of the rain."

The shelter in DeFuniak Springs saw eight people Wednesday night, and four Tuesday night. The shelter had people in and out, but did not keep those numbers. Law Enforcement advised stranded motorists of the shelter and several visited to warm up.  

HOW TO HELP: Shelters in South and North Walton need volunteers to continue to house individuals escaping the cold during the winter. In Santa Rosa Beach, the Coastal Branch Library/Community Center is located at 437 Greenway Trail. The DeFuniak Springs Community Center is located 361 N. 10th St. To volunteer contact Vortex of Volunteers at or call Tami Reinhart at 259-3035, or Frank Day at 974-2071. For The Matrix, call 892-1090 or Candy Nowlin at 307-8100.