ATLANTA — It’s not going to be a white Christmas in Georgia, by a long shot — just wet, unseasonably warm and potentially wild weather.
A heat wave that could deliver the warmest Christmas ever recorded to cities across the South may also fuel tornadoes and storms featuring golf-ball-sized hail and damaging winds of up to 70 mph in some areas, National Weather Service forecasters say.
By late today, the threat of severe weather will extend into Georgia, according to the Weather Service.
Severe weather could also occur during the overnight hours heading into Thursday — a particularly dangerous time because many people would be asleep when severe weather strikes, said Greg Carbin, a meteorologist at the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
“These types of severe weather events are unusual for this time of year but certainly not unprecedented,” Carbin said.
The local forecast calls for showers and possibly a thunderstorm Wednesday with fog in the morning and a high in the upper 60s. Those showers could continue through the night, with low temperatures only reaching the lower 60s.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day offer more of the same with a chance of near record highs in the lower 70s and showers off and on both days. Rainfall totals could reach several inches before the week is out, and a flood watch remains in effect for all of North Georgia.
“Part of the problem is that some of this will occur overnight, so it’s not just a daytime event,” Carbin said of this week’s threat. “This is not a one-shot, late afternoon Wednesday, boom, you’re done. The threat right now will be kind of this extended period of time.”
“It’s still unfolding, and there’s still uncertainty as to when the greatest threat will exist,” Carbin added.
Georgia remains in the area for a slighter risk of serious weather, but will get plenty of rain. Western Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama may get the worst of the storms.
After the storm threat subsides, forecasters say, the high temperature in Atlanta on Christmas Eve is expected to be 74. That would break the record for Dec. 24, which is 72 degrees set in 1984, according to weather service records.
In central Georgia, the weather service projects a high temperature of about 79 degrees in Macon on Christmas Eve, which would break the record for the date of 77 degrees set in 1964.
Further south, Savannah could reach a balmy 80 degrees on Christmas, tying the coastal city’s all-time warmest temperature for Dec. 25, the weather service said. Savannah previously hit the 80-degree mark in 2008 and 1984, according to the weather service’s office in Charleston, S.C.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.