Extreme weather hits Valley; brings record lows

mowen@ledger-enquirer.com, tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 7, 2014 

A paddle wheel fountain, one of the exhibits at Heritage Park in Columbus, is covered with ice Friday morning. 01/02/14

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

The Columbus area will "run the gamut" of weather experiences this week, setting record lows Monday night, then seeing temperatures soar to around 60 by Friday, WRBL Chief Meteorologist Bob Jeswald said.

"The record low was 17 in 1970," Jeswald said.

According to the National Weather Service, Columbus recorded a record low of 11 degrees Tuesday morning.

High temperatures likely won't break the freezing mark today but will climb to 40 on Wednesday, around 50 Thursday and 60 on Friday, Jeswald said. "So we'll run the gamut in about a week."

Jeswald said the cold air is coming from a polar jet stream, which is a stream of air that starts in the atmosphere and intensifies as it travels closer to the surface.

"This is as cold as cold air can get," he said. "The polar air can literally intensify as it comes down through a jet stream."

Jeswald said the intense cold over such an unusually long period of time for the region constitutes a hard freeze. That means that people and animals will be more affected by the cold.

"Hard freeze is usually four hours of freezing or below. Your body could certainly succumb to frostbite, but you could also die of exposure if you don't have heating in your house," Jeswald said. "This is a good time to be a good steward, make sure your neighbors or the elderly in your life have enough blankets, or let them come over to your house."

Residents should also beware "short cuts" to better heating.

"A lot of people will bring kerosene heaters into their home, and that's dangerous because it sucks all the oxygen out of the room," Jeswald said. "I've also heard of people who will burn trash instead of firewood. You don't know what kind of chemicals, or carbon monoxide, that might let off."

In conditions like these, experts say homeowners should be aware of the "Three Ps" -- pipes, pets and plants, that are at risk in extreme cold weather.

The Humane Society of the United States advises:

• If possible, keep pets in the house.

• If they remain outside, provide a dry shelter with a floor a couple of inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The shelter should be large enough for the animal to sit or lie down comfortably, but small enough to retain body heat. Keep the entrance facing away from the prevailing wind and covered with plastic or burlap.

• Make sure pets have plenty of water. Cold weather dehydrates them.

• Warm engines in parked cars can attract cats and wildlife. Bang the hood of the car to scare them off before starting the engine.

Frozen and ruptured pipes can cause considerable property damage once they thaw. The Institute for Business and Home Safety suggests the following to prevent the problem:

• Seal openings in walls and foundations that allow cold air, and especially wind, to get to pipes.

• Cover vulnerable pipes with insulating sleeves.

• Use heating tapes or cables on vulnerable pipes, but follow instructions to avoid a fire.

• Open under-sink cabinet doors to allow warmer air in.

• Let faucets drip slightly to keep water moving through pipes. Still water freezes more easily than moving water.

• Cover outside spigots with insulating cups or domes, especially if they face north.

Plants, too, are vulnerable to freezing weather. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service suggests:

• If possible, bring potted plants into the house.

• Ornamental plants will benefit from being covered with plastic or bedsheets, but only if it's done correctly. Covers should hang to the ground and it is best if the cover doesn't come into contact with the foliage. Heat can be transferred from the plant to the covering if there is contact.

• Sprinkling ornamental plants during a freeze will coat leaves with an insulating coating of ice. The ice may be 32 degrees or so, but that's insulation if the ambient temperature is considerably lower.

• Well-watered soil also retains more heat during the day and gives that heat back off at night. But over-watering soil for an extended time can damage roots.

The American Automobile Association recommends winterizing your car before the worst of the cold weather hits.

Drivers may notice tire pressure warning lights on their dashboards at the beginning of a cold snap. Colder weather reduces tire pressure, just as warmer weather can increase it. Tire pressure should be checked frequently and, if possible, when the tires are cold to get an accurate reading.

Cold weather can also sap a car battery's cranking power. Drivers should make sure their car's battery is in good shape to hold a charge through frigid weather. If your car's battery is more than three years old, AAA recommends having it checked.

Drivers should also make sure their car's radiator has sufficient antifreeze to keep the system from freezing up, which can cause expensive damage to the engine.

Georgia Power Co. is monitoring weather conditions around the state and is ready for the predicted record-low temperatures, according to Carol Boatright, corporate spokeswoman for the utility.

"In preparation for high demand, we've brought additional generation online to ensure adequate and reliable supplies of electricity," Boatright said in a release Monday afternoon. "Our control centers will carefully monitor power loads on circuits, and crews and engineering teams are being kept on call in the event heavy loads cause isolated outages over the next 24 hours."

Stephanie Pedersen contributed to this story.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service