Colder winter predicted

By Ed Brock

Jack Frost is going to have a Dickens of a time nipping the nose of Reginald Griffin of Jonesboro.

"I bought warm clothes, coats, hats, you name it. I serviced the heater," Griffin said.

All of that is a good idea as weather experts are predicting that this winter, which begins officially today, is going to be a bit colder than last year.

"There's no clear signal that it will be dry or wet this year, but there's a little signal that it will be cooler," said Lance Rothfusz, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service offices in Peachtree City.

In other words, the chances of getting snow are about even, Rothfusz said.

The prediction is based on the ongoing pattern in the "jet stream," the river of air that flows west to east in the upper-atmosphere along the middle latitudes of the planet. Rothfusz said that that pattern is likely to continue to allow arctic cold fronts to drop down more into the south.

However, the temperature difference will only be a matter of a few degrees.

Atlanta Gas Light Company is ready for the winter, spokesman Nick Gold said.

"The main thing for consumers to know is that there is plenty of supply," Gold said.

The cost of that supply depends on what kind of billing arrangement the customer has with the company, Gold said. Some people have fixed pricing on their gas supply and will see no change in their cost per unit.

"Those who are on a fluctuating price arrangement may see an uptake in price," Gold said.

Gold said that the Energy Information Group of America is predicting that increase to be around 20 percent. That prediction is based on a trend seen for the past couple of years due to growing demands coupled with limited supplies.

To lower the heating bill a bit, Gold advised keeping the thermostat at 68 and putting towels down at the bottoms of doors and windows in older houses in order to cut down on drafts. He also recommended wrapping the water heater in insulation that is available from Home Depot and other hardware stores.

"That's a pretty cost effective method," Gold said.

Atlanta Gas Light also recommends having the furnace checked to make sure it is performing properly and changing disposable filters before operating the furnace. Customers should make sure their insulation has the correct "R-value" (the higher the R-value the better the insulation), and people with unfinished basements should make sure the floor above the basement is insulated.

Insulate pipes and keep the damper in the fireplace closed when it is not in use. Open drapes and blinds during the day to allow the sunlight to warm the house and close the drapes and blinds at night to hold the heat in. Lower the thermostat at night and when nobody is home, close off unoccupied rooms and close the vents in those rooms.