Experts predict colder winter ahead

By Ed Brock

The "Arctic Express" is barreling through Georgia and forecasts show this winter will be a cold one.

Winter officially begins today, but it will be heralded by slightly warmer temperatures, with highs in the 50s, than the bitter wind that kept the high in the 30s on Monday.

It's the Jet Stream that sets the pattern for the weather to a large degree, and this year there's a "ridge" in the stream on the West Coast and a "trough" in the East Coast, said Lance Rothfusz, chief meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City. That trough is going to draw freezing cold air into Georgia and Clayton County.

"We have a very strong signal for below normal temperatures," Rothfusz said.

This "Arctic Express" of cold air from Canada, as Rothfusz called it, could mean more days like Monday in which high temperatures only reach into the 30s.

"I think there will be several more days of this in the January and February time frame," Rothfusz said.

Usually high temperatures are in the 50s during January in Georgia, but this year they will more likely be in the 40s. Lows that are usually around freezing could be in the 20s more often.

As for the possibility of snow, Rothfusz said that south Georgia looks to have a higher chance of precipitation this year while the state's northwest corner is expected to be drier than usual. Clayton County being in the middle, the chances of snow here are about the same as any other year.

Every morning at 8 a.m. Willis Swint, owner of Swint Feed & Garden Supply on N. Main Street in Jonesboro, reports his weather findings to Rothfusz's office. As a cooperative observer for the NWS since 1940, Swint measures the temperature and rainfall.

"It looks like it's going to be pretty cold," Swint said, saying that around 12:30 p.m. Monday the temperature was just over 28 degrees. "It started out this morning at 16."

Winter means more traffic at the Calvary Refuge Center Homeless Shelter in Forest Park.

"We're staying pretty full," said Kristen Schooler, transitional operations manager for the shelter. "We've got some people on mats and doubling up in our family rooms."

Fortunately the shelter has plenty of blankets, Schooler said, but they could still use some other donations.

"We're getting low on our can foods. We're always open for food donations," Schooler said.

Call (404) 361-5309 for information on donating to the shelter.

Rothfusz said the end of winter, or the "vernal equinox," should occur around March 21 this year.