The past year will go down as one of the warmest on record in the Southeast, but it won’t feel like it as 2017 gives way to 2018.
Here in Athens, it will feel like a deep freeze as temperatures could get down into the teens on the New Year’s weekend as Arctic air blankets most of the United States.
According to forecasters at the National Weather Service’s Peachtree City weather station, temperatures will descend below freezing to about 30 degrees overnight Saturday, and then it’s going to get really cold, with overnight lows below freezing on into the week.
Monday’s overnight low is forecast to be about 19. The overnight low Tuesday should be around 21, with a low of 23 degrees overnight Wednesday. Temperatures will be about the same in Atlanta.
The coming cold has area churches and homeless shelters preparing to house more people during the cold weather. Bigger Vision on North Avenue has already converted to its overload mode so it can accommodate more than its usual 34-person limit.
Athens First Baptist and First Methodist churches are also prepared to offer emergency overnight shelter if Bigger Vision and the Salvation Army shelter go beyond capacity, said Bigger Vision executive director Andrew Wilkin.
With more people expected not only from Athens, but surrounding areas, the shelter is in need of donations, he said.
The biggest needs for now include bottle water, powdered coffee creamer and zero-calorie sweeteners; the center goes through about 4 gallons of coffee a day, and many of its guests are diabetic, he said.
Volunteers at Bigger Vision are also collecting ponchos for wet weather; for a homeless person whose possessions are in a baby stroller or a backpack, a poncho is essential not only for that person to keep from getting wet, but all they own, including clothing, to stay dry.
“We’re good for blankets,” Wilkin said, but that could change. In a long cold spell like the one expected next week “we could go through them pretty quickly,“ he said.
Freezing nighttime temperatures could continue into next weekend.
No snow, though; skies will be mostly clear, according to forecasters.
The frigid air will penetrate even down into far south Georgia and Florida. Monday’s overnight low in Tallahassee is expected to be around 29 degrees, while thermometers will go down to about 27 in Valdosta.
Athens will be warm compared to some places, though.
In Minot, North Dakota, the high temperature Monday will be 0 with an overnight low of about minus 13, which is an improvement over the overnight Sunday low of minus 22 degrees.
The high temperature will be about 6 degrees New Year’s Day in Lawrence, Kansas, followed by an overnight low of minus 9 degrees. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, they’re expecting a New Year’s Day High of about 19 and an overnight low of 9 degrees.