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Wind chill flirts with zero degrees

By Greg Gelpi

People, plants and pets bundle up for subfreezing temperatures.

Temperatures were predicted to dip to 17 degrees this morning and feel as if it was 0 degrees when the wind chill is factored in, National Weather Service meteorologist Nate Mayes of the Peachtree City office said. Northwest winds at about 10 to 15 mph were also forecast.

Although still chilly, Mayes said temperatures will slowly climb toward the end of the week. Low temperatures will remain in the low 30s throughout the week as high temperatures top out near 50 degrees by Thursday or Friday.

With the return of slightly less cold weather, chances of rain will increase, he said, forecasting rain for the weekend. Clear skies will remain in the meantime meaning no chance of snow or frozen precipitation.

Despite the falling temperatures, Mayes said not to expect any record-breaking lows. Monday's low temperature was 26 degrees, while the record for that date stands at 0 degrees in 1982. The normal low for this time of year is 33 degrees.

Winter weather means protecting outdoor plants and animals.

Tracie Satterwhite of Walker Nursery Farms in Jonesboro said that tropical plants should have been taken inside long before now, but that there's still time to protect other plants.

"Basically, what you want to do is to protect anything that is tender," Satterwhite said.

Before temperatures drop below freezing, she suggested watering plants, so that freezing water will actually protect the plants.

As people bundle up under layers of blankets, Satterwhite said plants can be kept warm with layers of mulch. Although the type of mulch doesn't matter, she said mulch should be two to three inches thick.

Robin Rawls, vice president of the Clayton County Humane Society board of directors, said pets shouldn't be forgotten as temperatures turn cold.

"The best advice is that they be kept inside," Rawls said, adding that if they can't be, then steps should be taken to keep them warm outside.

Cats, who remain out in the cold, often climb inside a car's warm to escape the cold, so people should "bang and make a loud noise" before starting their cars to get cats out of the engine, she said.

A coat or a sweater should also be considered for outdoor animals, Rawls said. Just like a car acts like an oven in the summer, a car acts like a refrigerator in the winter, and so pets shouldn't be left alone in cars.

Rawls also advised increasing the amount of protein pets eat in the winter, ensuring bedding remains draft free and dry and watching for antifreeze leaks that pets could drink accidentally.