Valdosta Daily Times

January 6, 2014

Valdosta buckles down for icy temperatures

Terry Richards
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Temperatures in South Georgia are expected to crash tonight as a record-breaking mass of arctic cold air pushes its way south, according to the National Weather Service.

Today’s high for Valdosta is predicted by the National Weather Service to top out at 46 degrees, bottoming out tonight at 18 degrees according to a 4 p.m. Sunday forecast. The commercial AccuWeather service’s forecast calls for a high in Valdosta of 49 with a low of 21.

While the lows hit the teens in Valdosta in 2012, the last time the high temperature was so low was in 1996, said Jeanie McDermott, a weather service forecaster in Tallahassee, Fla. Valdosta is under a hard freeze warning until noon Tuesday.

A strong low pressure system that originated in Canada is shoving arctic air very far south, she said.

The blast of cold air will be in contrast to Sunday’s high in Valdosta in the 60s. McDermott said a warming trend is not unusual before a cold front moves in.

“In the winter, we often see wild variations in temperatures,” though such swings are more common in the north and New England, she said.

While there is a slight chance of showers this morning, the moisture is expected to be gone by the time temperatures start falling this afternoon, so ice and snow are not expected in the Valdosta area, McDermott said.

Lowndes County Emergency Management Director Ashley Tye has been in contact with local shelters that routinely provide shelter to the homeless whenever the county expects below-freezing temperatures. The last time temperatures fell significantly in Lowndes County and a shelter was opened, only the homeless came to the shelter, said Paige Dukes, public information officer for Lowndes County.

“At this time we feel we have adequate space to accommodate the homeless population without opening additional shelters,” said Tye. “We will monitor this over the next few days and if they begin to reach capacity or need additional assistance to accommodate an increased population we will assess the need for additional shelters at that time. LAMP and Salvation Army may fill up but the Mission Point Church downtown has plenty of room.”

Though there are no plans at the moment to open Mathis Municipal Auditorium as a night shelter, it is available if the need arises, said Sementha Mathews, public information officer for the City of Valdosta.

Citizens do not have to be homeless to take advantage of shelter space; however, all shelter occupants must be prepared to follow guidelines set forth by shelter staff.

Officials want to remind the public about the need for safety during cold weather.

“Each year in Lowndes County, structure fires occur due to substandard heating and/or items or appliances that produce heat being used outside of manufacturer instructions. Citizens are encouraged to protect themselves and their families by making sure kerosine heaters are used properly, space heaters are in good working order and free-standing from flammable materials and that fireplaces are used in accordance with rating guidelines. Wood should not be burned in fireplace inserts rated for gas logs,” said Lowndes County Fire Chief Richard Guyton.

In addition, pets should not be left outside until temperatures return to average for this time of year.

According to the weather service, homeowners with exposed water pipes should take precautions to keep pipes from freezing and bursting.

Neither city or county operations or services are expected to be impacted by the freezing weather, according to Dukes and Mathews.