National Weather Service forecast for Gainesville
- Today: Sunny, with a high near 43. Light and variable wind becoming southwest 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.
- Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around 30. Southwest wind around 5 mph.
- Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 53. West wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.
- Thursday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 37.
Tuesday’s subfreezing weather may have reminded us of the polar vortexes and “snowmaggedons” that plagued the winter of 2014, but it doesn’t necessarily portend an equally icy winter of 2015.
“This doesn’t mean we’re entering an Ice Age or something like that,” state climatologist Bill Murphey said. “It just means we had a pretty good cold shot for November.”
He said he expects a “progressive” weather pattern, which could mean “some pretty big swings in temperature,” or an equal chance for above-normal, below-normal and normal temperatures through January for Georgia.
“I do think we’re going to trend more to the cooler side,” Murphey said, adding that Middle and South Georgia could see more precipitation than North Georgia.
The “cooler side” certainly gripped the region on Tuesday, when the high temperature hovered around the freezing mark and, with occasional gusts, made for definite bundle-up weather.
“It’s bad to be outside,” said Thomas Ramirez, director of the Good News at Noon homeless shelter on Davis Street.
In the recent cooler weather, some people have been arriving at the shelter as early as 6 a.m. to escape the cold, he said.
“We let them in so they can get a cup of coffee and warm up,” Ramirez said. “If it was me outside, I’d want somebody to help me.”
Amanda Ayers, program manager at Family Promise, a Gainesville program serving homeless families, said her nonprofit organization “notices a significant increase in the number of calls we get as the weather gets colder.”
“We had a mom come in yesterday and she had four children who needed winter coats,” she said. “It’s a huge need for them to get to and from school. We were able to connect with a wonderful donor who was willing to provide those.”
The chilly weather also revives memories of last year’s snowstorms, which crippled traffic in and around Atlanta, leaving many motorists stranded on key interstates.
At one point during a storm that dumped about 5 inches of snow on parts of Hall County, snow removal efforts in the DOT’s Gainesville-based District 1 involved 11,412 employee hours and the application of 93 tons of salt and gravel per hour throughout an 84-hour ordeal.
On Tuesday, some 600 people from local, state and federal government agencies, private-sector organizations and volunteer groups participated in a weather exercise coordinated by Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security.
The drill simulated an impending winter weather storm affecting metro Atlanta and North Georgia.
“It’s important for all our emergency response partners to understand each other’s roles,” said Crystal Paulk-Buchanan, GEMA spokeswoman. “When (that happens), you can have a timely and coordinated response.”
Otherwise, the state has added a staff position to help prepare better for winter onslaughts — a meteorologist who works particularly with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City and a weather advisory group comprising media meteorologists.
From that effort will spring weather briefings and updates, especially focused on impacts of bad weather.
“It’s one thing to talk about what the weather’s going to be,” Paulk-Buchanan said . “It’s really (about) what is the impact on the public and what do we need to do to prepare for those impacts.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation has set up “staging areas” for road-clearing efforts around the state, including at an old rest area/welcome center off Interstate 985 between Flowery Branch and Oakwood.
“By law, we have to keep interstates open and safe for use, so we’re trying to target easy places to put these staging areas,” district spokeswoman Teri Pope said in an earlier interview.