Southern winter weather no joke this year

Southerners sometimes joke about the fickle nature of our winter weather. But the joke’s turned more extreme this year, and enough is enough.

When Southerners leave the house on winter mornings, most know to grab a jacket and an umbrella. You might need the jacket early in the day, but by day’s end, you might be standing in the sun sweating. And a day that starts with a dry drive to work can end with a torrential downpour escorting you on back to the house.

But the New Year weather so far has been particularly ornery. Winter usually provides a series of serenely mild days checked with only a few Northern blasts, just enough to remind us we don’t have as much natural antifreeze flowing in our collective bloodstream as our Northern brothers and sisters … at least I don’t have as much.

TV weather reporters say the South’s winter weather has been near historic. Depending on where you’re standing on any given day, I think it’s true. Two weeks ago, the temperature range near my home in south Georgia was laughable. The Tuesday low was 15 degrees and, we had enough snow on the ground to make small snowballs, which has only happened about four times in the area in my 40 years of breathing. But by Friday noon of that week, the high was 72 degrees, a 57-degree swing in three days -- it went from schools being closed one day to shortly thereafter comfortably wearing shorts as I meandered my yard on the way to get the mail.

But other Southerners have had it much worse.

Atlanta got grand recognition for miserably losing its late-January round with Mother Nature’s viciously chilly side. Roads were jammed or closed down by icy conditions or by road crews, which tried much too late to get salt and sand out to keep the roads from being closed – a strange dance of danged if you do danged if you don’t. The city prepared for winter storm Round 2 Feb. 12 as much of the Southeast was walloped by yet another rude Northern blast.

I've seen and heard national commentaries and spoofs on how we Southerners poorly handle weather that our Northern brothers and sisters easily laugh off as normal, making us look a little goofy or ignorant. Real funny … Ha.

The weather table can turn

I’m reminded, though, that tables turn. I can recount several times I’ve been around good Northern folks traipsing flush-faced through peanut or cotton fields on Southern farm tours in July. Several looking like they were about ready to cross the River Jordan.

“Is it always this hot and muggy?” one asks.

“No, it’s only 9 in the morning,” I say. “You want muggy hot, wait until after lunch. We just getting started here.”

“I think I’m going back to the bus and sit for a minute. See if we can get the air conditioning going,” another good Northerner says, with a dazed look.

“Yeah, I think you better. Need some help.”

Is the winter chill gone? No.

Stormy weather over? No, for sure. We haven’t even hit the heart of tornado season, yet, and that’s just around the corner in March and April. If Mother Nature’s schizophrenic attitude so far this year is anyway to gauge her next act, tornado season promises to be special. Let’s hope not, though.

By the way, the Farmers’ Almanac is a pretty good predictor of weather. Its forecasts are as good as any, maybe better than some. Here’s the Farmers’ Almanac Southeast February 2014 forecast:

  • 12th-15th. Heavy precipitation Tennessee Valley east to Carolinas; showers elsewhere.
  • 16th-19th. Turning unseasonably cold; freezing temperatures to Florida.
  • 20th-23rd. Rain, then clearing, much colder. Freeze in Florida, then warming quickly.
  • 24th-28th. Showers initially, then turning dry, unseasonably cold. Another damaging freeze for Florida.
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