School systems are considering closing and snow plows and road salt supplies are on standby — for South Georgia.
A cold front moving through the area, combined with a low pressure system, is driving arctic air south today, bringing a good chance of freezing rain tonight and a chance of snow Wednesday.
Forecasts call for a high in the mid-40s today with an 80 percent chance of rain, turning to freezing rain tonight with an overnight low of 35 degrees.
The National Weather Service posted a winter weather watch Monday for Lowndes, Berrien, Brooks, Lanier and 25 other
counties in the service’s
Tallahassee, Fla., office’s coverage area for north Florida and South Georgia, said Katie Moore, weather service meteorologist. The watch starts at 1 p.m. today and lasts until 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The worst-affected area should be southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia, Moore said. The weather service is expecting one to two inches of snow Wednesday morning from Tifton to Dothan, Ala., northward.
Valdosta “is kind of on the border,” she said. “The freezing rain is more likely.”
Brian Edwards, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, thinks ice will be more of a concern to Valdostans than snow.
“You’d have to get up into central Georgia to get a significant snowfall,” he said.
Temperatures will get close to freezing between 4 to 5 a.m. Wednesday, creating a window for “a light glazing of ice” between then and 1 p.m. that day, Edwards said. There is a slight chance for a flurry or two Wednesday afternoon, he said.
Both Lowndes’ and Valdosta’s school systems will decide around 4 p.m. today whether to cancel classes Wednesday, according to announcements from both systems. Valdosta State University is monitoring the situation, according to the university’s website.
Shelter space in Lowndes County is available at LAMP, 601 North Lee Street, the Salvation Army, 317 Virginia Avenue, and Mission Point Church, at the corner of Ashley Street and Hill Avenue. Lowndes County Emergency Management is prepared to open additional shelter locations, should the need arise.
Salvation Army Capt. Monica Nickum said Monday the organization’s transit lodge desperately needs inflatable mattresses, cots, sleeping bags, blankets, towels, pillows and bed linens for the expected influx of people during the storm.
With nine beds, the Salvation Army transit lodge has been over-capacity for the past week. With lower temperatures recently, the lodge has been providing shelter for an average of 15 people per evening, Nickum said.
This number is expected to rise tonight. The lodge has the space to hold more people but it needs more bedding to keep them warm and comfortable.
People wishing to donate may bring items to the Salvation Army’s 212 N. Troup Street offices before 3 p.m. today, or to the lodge, at 317 Virginia Ave., after 6 p.m.
Authorities are scrambling to prepare a region not used to extreme winter weather for the oncoming blast. “There is not a lot of infrastructure this far south for this sort of cleanup,” Moore said.
Georgia Department of Transportation maintenance crews in southwest Georgia prepared for the storm Monday. Workers for GDOT District 4 — which includes Lowndes and 31 other counties — attached snow plows to tandem dump trucks and loaded trucks with a salt and rock mixture, according to a GDOT press release. Crews will be ready to deploy if roads begin icing, according to the release.
Exactly how much snow has fallen in Valdosta in the past is debatable. Weather records for Valdosta are “very scant,” with data for some entire years missing, said Kyle Brehe, user services climatologist for the Southern Regional Climate Center. His research showed only two snowfall records for Valdosta: 2 inches each for Feb. 1958 and for the year 1912. More recent records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show a snowfall of 3 inches on Dec. 23, 1989.
Freezing temperature preparedness measures include the following:
-Allow faucets to drip to avoid freezing.
-Fully winterize your vehicle and keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
-Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks
-Make sure you know how to turn off water to your home in the event a pipe bursts.
-Cover plants or bring them indoors.