By Curt Yeomans
Alfred Jerome Tittle, a carrier for the United States Postal Service, had his upper body bundled in six layers of clothing as he walked his route Monday afternoon, delivering mail to the law offices on Main Street in Jonesboro as temperatures hovered in the 30s.
He wore long johns, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, his work shirt, a sweater, a heavy USPS jacket and a postal service hood, which had a hole in the front just large enough for his eyes, nose and mouth to be visible.
Tittle, who spent 14 years in the Army before he was honorably discharged in 1991, said he learned through his training as a soldier that bundling up in layers is an effective way to stay warm in cold weather. He said it's a lesson that has served him well on a mail route that calls for him to spend some of his time on foot.
"Frostbite is one of the worst things you can get," Tittle said. "On a day like today, the best thing you can do is bundle up in as many warm clothes as possible. If you're going to be out, you've got to be covered up. Otherwise, you'll freeze."
The kind of cold temperatures seen on Monday will not be going anywhere for the near future. National Weather Service Forecaster Mike Leary said local residents can expect the low temperatures to remain at least through Sunday, based on the weather service's extended forecasts.
"Certainly, it will move out eventually, but our projections show it sticking around through at least Sunday, which is as far out as our projections go," Leary said.
He said the coldest temperatures today and Wednesday will be felt between 5 a.m., and 7 a.m., when people are leaving their homes for work, and when children are beginning to head to their school bus stops. He said the expected low temperature for today is 17 degrees, and the projected low for Wednesday is 15 degrees.
With winds of approximately 15 mph, it will feel like the temperatures are in the single digits, Leary said.
"It would certainly be better to have warm clothes on, like a warm coat, and a sweater," Leary said. "Hats are another thing people should make sure they have on, to keep their heads warm. That's where a lot of the heat goes out of the body."
Clayton County Public Schools Spokesman Charles White said the school system is urging parents make sure their youngsters stay as warm as possible in the morning hours.
"We are asking parents to bring their children to their bus stops and stay with them, or if their schedule permits, drive them to school so they can stay in warm places as much as possible," White said.
School system Chief Operating Officer Cephus Jackson said there were no reported problems with heating systems in any of the county's schools on Monday, the first time schools were open after a two-week winter break.
As the temperatures rise during the day today, though, they are expected to get up to just over the freezing point. Today's high temperature is projected to be around 37 degrees, Leary said. He said the high temperature for Wednesday is projected to be around 44 degrees.
But snow may enter the picture on Thursday, as the projected temperature drops throughout the day to 22 degrees on Thursday night, the National Weather Service forecaster said.
"On Thursday, one to two inches of snow is possible by the overnight hours," Leary said. "During the day, there is a 20-percent chance of snow, with a 40-percent chance that night."
The temperatures on Friday are projected to range from lows in the 20s, to highs in the mid-30s, he said.
The cold weather has been around the area for several days, according to one local weather observer. Willis Swint, of Jonesboro, a temperature and rainfall cooperative observer for the National Weather Service, said he recorded a local, overnight low temperature of 23 degrees for the 24-hour period ending on Saturday morning.
He added that during the 24-hour periods that ended on Sunday and Monday mornings, his digital temperature-recording equipment noted the low temperature for each period was 17 degrees.
Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department, said there had not been any weather-related home fires in the last few days. He added, however, that there's always a possibility of a home catching on fire when the weather turns cold because of methods people employ to stay warm.
"If you're going to use a space heater, make sure you are aware of any flammable materials around it that might catch on fire," Merkison said. "Make sure there are no curtains nearby, or that clothes are not piled up around it. If you're using a fireplace, make sure it's inspected and cleaned before you burn any wood in it."
He said residents should avoid trying to heat their homes by turning on their ovens and leaving the door open. "That is something we don't recommend you do because it can raise the carbon dioxide levels in your home," he said.
Residents should also make sure their water pipes are safe from the cold temperatures, said Clayton County Water Authority Spokesperson Suzanne Brown. Eighty percent of the pipe-related problems the water authority deals with in cold weather involve pipes attached to a customer's home, Brown said.
"Our water lines are buried deep in the ground, so the cold weather doesn't affect them ... but there are a few reasons why people have problems in their homes," Brown said. "The service lines for the homes are not buried very deep, or people haven't wrapped up their outside faucets to keep them from freezing, or their homes may have a vented crawl space that's not insulated, which exposes the pipes inside your home to the cold temperatures."
In an e-mailed list of steps people can take to keep their pipes warm, Brown said homeowners should insulate any pipes that run outside the house using pipe sleeves, foam, tape or newspaper; open cabinet doors so warm air can circulate to pipes; and let a small amount of water trickle out of faucets.
Tittle, meanwhile, had his own advice for keeping the human body's pipes warm.
"Just keep moving," he said. "The quicker you work, the warmer your body will stay, so I keep moving."