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EMA: Bad weather on the way

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- Two colliding weather fronts could dump more than 6 inches of rain and produce up to 40 mph winds throughout Southwest Georgia during a 24-hour period beginning late tonight and going through Wednesday, weather officials said Monday.

The National Weather Service held a conference call with Emergency Management Agency heads from throughout Southwest Georgia, Alabama and North Florida to discuss the potential for what NWS officials say is a "moderate risk" event.

The last moderate risk event was a system that spawned at least two separate tornadoes that demolished Sumter Regional Medical Center in Americus and claimed lives both in Newton and Sumter County in March 2007.

"It's definitely something for us to keep an eye out for," Albany Fire Chief and EMA Director James Carswell said. "We will be asking the public to stay indoors as much as possible Wednesday and avoid any unnecessary travel."

The weather event is the result of two colliding fronts. A strong cold front descending from the North is set to meet a tropical front from the Gulf of Mexico that is loaded with moisture, weather officials say.

The result? Large amounts of rain, possible gale force winds and localized flooding, all complicated by the possibility of widespread power outages, Carswell said.

"Any time we have rain coupled with high winds we have to worry about power outages due to the Pine limbs. It doesn't take much for them to break and fall on lines," he said.

Those in the westernmost counties in south and central Georgia will likely catch the lion's share of the weather, with counties from Muscogee to Decatur and Seminole likely to be involved.

Behind the fast-moving front will be a rush of cold air that could send temperatures plummeting. The resulting cold air mass will likely send south Georgia into its first hard freeze of the fall, Carswell said.

The fire department is advising anyone who plans to use a space heater to check around the heater to make sure no paper or other flammable debris is nearby before operating the device.

Deputy EMA Director Jim Vaught said that the rain volume isn't necessarily the problem with a system like this.

"The issue more is the speed this front is moving," Vaught said. "This could dump a lot of rain in a very short time so the ground may not have a chance to really soak it in. Combine that with wind and possible tornadoes and people should really be cautious."