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Severe weather forecast today in metro area

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Weather officials are expecting more severe weather today, when heavy rain moves through the metro-Atlanta region.

"We can't rule out the possibility of severe thunderstorms," said Jessica Fieux, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Widespread thunderstorms, Wednesday, produced about 2.06 inches of rain in the region, high above the historic 0.18-inch rainfall norm for March 10, according to the National Weather Service's Daily Climatological Report.

Fieux said Atlanta's rainfall amounts have continued on an above-average pace since Jan. 1, at 12.01 inches, against the 11.51-inch norm for that time frame in previous recorded years.

There will be a 70-percent chance of rain today, dropping to about 40 percent overnight, she continued. Severe thunderstorms are expected to be mixed in with the rain event during the day, going into the evening, and diminishing on Saturday. Highs will be near 67 degrees today, and around 60 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

"There is a better chance of severe thunderstorms [today] than on Wednesday," Fieux said. "The primary concerns are hail and damaging winds throughout north and central Georgia."

Fieux said the thunderstorms could bring hail, quarter-sized or greater, and wind gusts of 58 mph or greater.

"We are moving towards that spring-like pattern," said Fieux, adding that residents should stay tuned for weather updates on their televisions or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radios.

This past winter has been unusually cold and wet for Georgia, said State Climatologist David Emory Stooksbury.

He said the chilly weather has caused heating demand to soar 22 percent above normal in Atlanta, and 36 percent higher than last year.

"We did see much higher electricity usage, by our residential customers, during January and February," said Jeff Wilson, a spokesman for Georgia Power.

January was the electric utility's coldest January since 1985, Wilson said, adding that February was the coldest February since 1978. He said the unusually frigid weather drove up Georgia Power's statewide residential usage by 21 percent in January and February, compared to the same time frame in 2009.

Wilson said kilowatt-hour usage per residential customer increased from 1,237 kilowatt-hours in January 2009, up to 1,519 this past January, and from 1,029 kilowatt-hours in February 2009, up to 1,212 this past February.

"This winter was typical of an El Nino one for Georgia -- but on hyper-drive," said Stooksbury. "This past winter will be remembered for its long periods of below-normal temperatures. [However,] it wasn't that Georgia experienced long periods of bitterly cold temperatures in the single digits. It was the lack of the typical warm periods between the cold periods."