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Wary, weary of winter weather

Experts say sudden shifts are standard for season

POSTED: February 3, 2013 12:30 a.m.
Jim Dean/

Allen Austin walks his dog, Chewbacca, Friday at Fowler Park. Seasonal weather returned after a week of temperature swings.

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Anyone looking for consistent weather has probably been disappointed this winter.

So far, north Georgia has experienced unseasonably warm high temperatures mixed with frigid days.

There’s been some ice, traces of snow, torrential downpours and ample sunshine. Last week, unfortunately, there was even a tornado or two.

And it’s just the beginning of February, so there’s still plenty of time for more wacky weather happenings before spring.

But we shouldn’t be too surprised by anything the weather does, according to officials with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

Trisha Palmer, a forecaster with the service, said while the weather this year may seem strange, there’s really nothing incredibly unusual going on. Georgia’s location makes it susceptible to rapidly changing conditions this time of year.  

“The severe weather belt in January, February and into March really is isolated across the Southeast … just because of where the Jetstream is located, and we’re closer to the Gulf of Mexico where warm moist air is,” Palmer said. “… You need those differences in the air masses in order to generate severe [weather].”

As for shifting temperatures — such as highs in the 70s on Wednesday and only in the 40s Thursday — Palmer said that may seem unique to Georgia, but it’s not.

“What’s really funny about that saying, ‘Wait a minute and the weather will change’ is that every place in the country has the same saying,” she said. “That can happen anywhere.

“In Chicago, it can be in the 50s one day and zero the next, so those temperature swings can happen everywhere. But the actual temperatures are relative to each location.”

While it may not be that unusual to experts, sudden shifts in weather patterns can be problematic.

For those who work at Sawnee EMC, for example, the weather can cause major mayhem with outages and other issues.

Blake House, vice president of customer service, said Sawnee staffers are always aware of what the weather’s doing.

“Whether it be storm preparedness or energy sales or anything else, our business is extremely wary of the weather,” he said. “It affects us in every which way you turn.”

He said they also take preparing for inclement conditions seriously.

“Our control center is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so we always have somebody that’s there at the co-op, and we’re all trained to be looking at the weather.

“The good thing with today’s technology and access to the Internet and so many different ways of getting the weather … we know several days in advance what’s being forecast and we start then getting our staff together and … talking about crews and getting additional help if needed.”

Local emergency service personnel also stay prepared, said Division Chief Jason Shivers of the Forsyth County Fire Department.

“During inclement weather we know to expect an increase in call volume,” he said. “And then during extreme weather, much like we had earlier this week, of course the department mobilizes to a more elevated degree.

“We have staff that react to the emergency operations center and monitor call volume and the radar and all of those hundreds of factors that play into what the public’s need for us is going to be.”

Shivers said while the county’s been fortunate so far this season, with no significant snow or ice events, emergency service personnel are quite aware that winter’s just getting started.

“It’s not unusual for Georgia to get snow late into March,” he said. “[But] that’s what we do is be prepared and ready for it long before it arrives in North Georgia.”

According to Palmer, being prepared for anything when it comes to weather is always a good idea.

“Things can change quickly,” she said. “We just have to always keep an eye on things.”

 

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