Freeze to hit Albany tonight

ALBANY -- An "arctic outbreak" means it is going be a cold start to the new year in Albany and Southwest Georgia, National Weather Service officials said.

"We are going into a cold period with below-freezing temperatures Saturday (tonight) into the morning and continue through Sunday night," said Bryan Mroczka, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Tallahasee, Fla. "Hard freeze conditions could start Sunday morning and continue into the next week or so."

Low temperatures should stay in the low 20s through Wednesday, Mroczka said. The cold could last as long as 10 hours at a time in some spots, he added.

A freeze like this would be hazardous to vegetation, pets kept outside and exposed pipes, said Irv Watson, NWS science and operations officer. Cold weather precautions should also be taken for the elderly, he added.

The high temperatures today are predicted to be in the upper 40s, while Sunday through Wednesday highs are predicted in the low 50s, Mroczka said.

The cold temperatures are the result of an arctic cold front that blasted into the area Thursday night and into Friday morning, Mroczka said.

Because of low humidity in the arctic front, the weather service also issued a fire warning.

"The dry, cold air also dries out vegetation," Mroczka said. "It can be a fire hazard."

During cold snaps like this, people often bring out space heaters, Albany Fire Department Chief James Carswell has said. The use of space heaters should be carefully monitored, he added.

"On average, we have two fire fatalities a year," Carswell has said. "At least one (on average) is because of a space heater."

People should use a space heater that is designed for the amount of space they need heated, not for a larger space, Carswell stated. There should be at least three feet of clear space around the heater. It should never be near flammable material.

"People should follow the instructions that come with the heater," Carswell has said. "It is important to have smoke alarms throughout the house."