Groundhogs Agree: Spring is Just Around the Corner

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

After a day that brought up to six inches of snow in Dahlonega, and icy conditions to parts of the north metro area (but not Gwinnett County), the groundhogs have made their annual predictions for the arrival of spring.

Both Beauregard Lee and Punxatawny Phil woke up this morning, and didn’t see their shadows. According to legend, this means that spring is just around the corner.

You wouldn’t know it from some of the more traditional models of weather forecasting. The overall weather pattern in the United States has a ridge in the west, and a trough in the east. This is allowing brutally cold air to descend from Canada into the middle of the country and then move eastward, while the western part of the country stays warm.

This weather pattern will probably stay in place for the next week to ten days. Even though the coldest part of winter is theoretically over, we’ll be lucky to see 50 degrees the week of the 12th, even though by then the high should be around 55. After that, there’s a possibility that the pattern will shift to more favorable weather, or at least something that gives us the possibility of seeing 60 during the day.

Meanwhile, central Florida got a taste of one of the bad things about spring — strong tornadoes. At last report, at least 19 people died when a tornado ripped through the Orlando area early this morning. The satellite picture below shows central Florida this morning, and highlights Lady Lake, one of the towns severely damaged by the cyclone.

Here in Georgia, we typically don’t get the worst tornadoes until March. The Weather Service has scheduled Severe Weather Awareness Week for the week of February 19th, including a statewide tornado drill on the 21st.

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Georgia Severe Weather Awareness Week

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Georgia. The National Weather Service holds severe weather awareness weeks in each state, usually about the time of year when that state is most vulnerable to tornadoes, hail, and thunderstorms.

The week will be highlighted by a statewide tornado drill on Wednesday morning.

In addition to tornadoes and thunderstorms, officials will be trying to draw attention to the risks of flooding, lightning, and extreme heat and cold; however for most folks, thunderstorms and tornadoes are the biggest threat, primarily because they can occur with little or no warning.

If you’ve lived in the Atlanta area for a while, you’ll probably remember the severe tornadoes that occurred on April 8th and 9th, 1998. Overnight, storms brought down trees and caused extreme destruction in Cobb County, Dunwoody, Norcross, and Duluth. Many people not in the direct path of the storms woke up the next morning to the terrible news.

At the time, I was working near Georgia 400 and Abernathy Road, near the part of Dunwoody that was largely destroyed. The storm made me think, and I realized that it might be a good idea to buy a NOAA weather radio that would automatically alert me if a tornado or thunderstorm warning was issued in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately, it seemed that there were none to be found in North Georgia. I wanted a newer radio that used SAME technology. This technology only sets off the radio’s alarm if a warning is issued in the county or counties you specify. I didn’t need to be woken up in the middle of the night for a warning that wouldn’t affect me.

I finally located one at a Radio Shack in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They only had one, a demo version. Since I was going to Cambridge on a business trip, I figured I would pick it up there and bring it home.

The punch line, if there is one, is that the unit was defective, and I ended up exchanging it for a new one once they were in stock back here in Georgia.

If there is a moral to the story, it’s be prepared. If you don’t have a weather radio, they are fairly cheap, and could potentially save your life. Go out and get one now, before the severe weather season starts.

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