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Weather officials give winter outlook

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The frigid weather is expected to last through Thursday, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Spencer Smith.

"We started experiencing cold temperatures Sunday night into Monday morning," Smith said. "By Thursday, we should see temperatures near 50 degrees."

The meteorologist noted that nighttime temperatures in the area had dipped into the twenties -- and in the teens in the North Georgia Mountains -- as the result of an Alberta Clipper, a type of cold front, which brought down a mass of cold air from Canada and North America.

Local electric utility officials reported the cold weather was the cause of power outages in the McDonough area early Monday morning.

Monday's cold snap also marked the start of Winter Weather Awareness Week in Georgia, added officials with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA).

GEMA officials are using the week, between Dec. 6-10, to revive their Ready Georgia campaign, encouraging residents to prepare for risks associated with severe winter weather.

"Disaster can strike at any time, as it did earlier this year when Georgia experienced a severe winter storm that resulted in... property damage, and icy, closed roads throughout the state," said Lisa Janak, spokesperson for GEMA. "Whether or not we experience a freeze or a drought, preparing now is vital, since time is never on our side during an emergency."

Janak said a moderate-to-strong La Nina weather pattern is expected across the U.S. this winter, as is noted in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) U.S. Winter Outlook, released in October.

The outlook indicated Georgia is among those southern states that will experience a warmer and drier winter than average, increasing the risk of above-normal wildfire conditions, that could last through the spring.

The GEMA official advises that, despite the expected warmer season, Georgians should not be caught off guard. She said extreme weather can occur suddenly in the form of cold air outbreaks and snowstorms, and may cause severe problems in Georgia.

One catastrophe can create enough damage to devastate a community, continued Janak, adding there are steps that families can take to be prepared for emergencies this winter.

Residents should prepare Ready kits, filled with three days worth in emergency supplies for their homes and automobiles. She said families should also create a winter weather plan, and stay informed about winter weather by listening to a NOAA Weather Radio, in addition to monitoring the news.

For more information on preparing for winter storms, or creating a Ready checklist, visit the Ready Georgia web site at www.ready.ga.gov.