Near-record low temperatures grip Middle Georgia

mstucka@macon.comDecember 7, 2010 

Emmitt Sherling was an oddity in Macon on Monday, wearing only short sleeves in midday temperatures that hovered about 10 degrees above freezing.

Only when he had to go onto the roof of Satterfield’s Restaurant to make some repairs did he put on long sleeves -- and then because of the wind.

Elsewhere across Middle Georgia, people layered their clothes to cope with temperatures that made life miserable for joggers, dog walkers and just about anyone who works outside. The continuing cold is expected to freeze and fracture pipes and, officials fear, lead to more house fires.

Tuesday morning was expected to drop to about 22 degrees, just 1 degree above that date’s record low in Middle Georgia Regional Airport logs that go back more than half a century. (The absolute low on record for the date in the Macon area is 15 degrees, set in 1937.)

And it’ll get worse before it gets better. The forecast calls for temperatures to fall to 20 degrees Tuesday night and 18 degrees Wednesday night, each just a degree or two above those date’s all-time records for the area. The coldest it got in Macon in 2009 was 17 degrees on Jan. 17.

“We’re running on the order of 15 or 20 degrees below normal,” said Brian D. Lynn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

“Usually when you start getting close to 20 degrees, you’re getting close to records.”

But what’s bad for most folks may be good for Herbert Johnson III, owner of Johnson Plumbing. He expects lots of burst pipes with Tuesday’s continued cold.

“It’s got to stay down two days in Georgia” before there are significant pipe-freezing problems, he said.

Hot and cold faucets can be left dripping to reduce the risk of freezing, especially if pipes run through a crawl space. Any outdoor plumbing should be insulated, said Johnson, a 25-year plumbing veteran.

Mechanics were already busy Monday. Robbie Whalen, manager of Vineville Tire, said tire pressure monitors were bringing up warning lights in cars.

Cold temperatures makes the air pressure in tires drop, often enough to trigger a warning light from the sensors.

“We’ve been kind of overrun with that,” said Whalen. “But it’s just part of the service.”

Once tires are brought back to the right pressure, his technicians reset the warning light and get the customers back on the road in a few minutes. He has also seen several bad batteries and people checking the antifreeze.

Kevin Noles, an assistant fire chief in Houston County, predicted more chimney, furnace and space heater problems. People typically put space heaters far too close -- within 6 feet -- of curtains, couches and other materials. And they don’t replace older models with ones that turn off if they get knocked over by a pet or a child, or if they overheat.

“If they’re old space heaters, the best thing I can tell is to get rid of them,” he said.

Chimneys and furnaces also need to be checked annually.

And it’s only December, with the official start of winter just a couple of weeks away.

The current cold spell will end with highs in the 50s Thursday and Friday. The next cold spell is forecast to move in by Saturday night.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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