Brrrrrr, winter is on its way

By Greg Gelpi

It's November and area residents are still strolling the streets in shorts, and air-conditioners are still hard at work cooling houses, but not for long. Winter is on its way.

Although forecasters tell of an unpredictable winter ahead, experts still advise everyone to take precautions for winterizing their homes and vehicles.

Some residents aren't doing much to prepare, though, anticipating another mild winter.

"It doesn't usually get that cold until December, and even then it doesn't get that cold," Christy Pittman, a resident of Stockbridge, said. "We haven't done much to prepare. We usually service our car."

She also purchased some winter clothes, she said.

A Jonesboro resident said that it hasn't been cold in a few years, but that it does get cold.

"Don't fool yourself," she said. "November isn't always like this."

She recalled a recent winter when the weather turned cold in September and remained cold until the spring.

"I like cold weather, but not after that year," she said.

Another Jonesboro resident said she moved her winter clothes from one closet to another to prepare for the cold weather.

"It's just a moderate climate," she said. "There's just not much to do."

Despite the traditionally mild winter weather, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency advises everyone to prepare for harsh weather as a precaution, Lisa Ray, a GEMA spokesperson, said.

"We recommend that people prepare for anything anyway," she said. "With the pine trees we have around here, if there is cold weather, someone is going to lose power."

Ray suggested buying a programmable all-hazards radio and pointed out the importance of battery-operated emergency items, citing their use during the blackout in the New York area this summer.

The National Weather Service is leaving open the possibility for anything this winter.

"We've got some indications, but it's not a clear signal," meteorologist Lans Rothfusz of the National Weather Service-Atlanta said. "There's no El Nino, no La Nina. Without any of these, there's no indication."

Rothfusz said without prominent weather patterns such as these to influence the weather, forecasters are uncertain about this winter's weather.

Typically, the Metro Atlanta area receives little snowfall, but eight inches of snow in one storm isn't unheard of, Rothfusz said.

"Snowfall is rare," he said. "We'll get an average of two or three events a year that produce a couple inches of snow."

In light of the unpredictable weather conditions, the GEMA issued tips for preparing for the possibility of severe winter weather.

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the winter should be colder than usual, with temperatures four degrees colder until January. The almanac also foresees lower than normal snowfall.

GEMA advises residents to stay inside if possible, have alternative heating sources in case of power outages, ensure houses have proper ventilation and check smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

If power does go out, GEMA suggests closing off unneeded rooms, sealing them off with towels and covering windows at night.

Stocking up beforehand is important as well, GEMA said. Every house should have a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food, as well as flashlights, a weather radio, a battery-operated radio and extra batteries.

Most cold weather-related deaths occur in vehicles, GEMA said.

GEMA recommends keeping the gas tank half full and traveling with a survival kit, including a charged cell phone, first aid kit, jumper cables, blankets, a flash light and batteries and a bag of sand or cat litter for traction.

Before going anywhere, motorists should let a relative know, and if they get stuck somewhere they shouldn't leave the vehicle. They should run the engine for 10 minutes every hour, crack a window and check the exhaust pipe for obstructions.