ALBANY — Southwest Georgia will get its first bout of sub-freezing temperatures between midnight Wednesday and 8 a.m. Thursday.
According to weather forecasters, temperatures will hit near freezing tonight before dropping to 29 degrees early Thursday morning before warming back up Friday. The National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for 1 a.m.-8 a.m. Thursday.
That’s a sharp drop from the mid-40s lows that the area has been experiencing the past few days. The normal low for this time of year is 48 degrees.
James Morgan, agent with the University of Georgia Extension Service office in Dougherty County, said Tuesday that a low that bottoms out at 29 won’t be overly dangerous to plants, but homeowners should take some precautions to ensure their plants’ health.
“I would not suggest moving plants inside,” he said. “Just be safer than sorry.”
Morgan said residents can protect their plants from the chilly temperatures and wind by covering them or moving them to more sheltered spots. Winds tonight are expected to be in the 15-20 mph range with gusts up to 35 mph, the National Weather Service says. They will be calmer — 5-10 mph — Thursday, but could still gust up to 20 mph, the NWS said.
“Normally,” Morgan said, “I tell people that if it’s below 32 degrees, I would bring plants in and cover them up. You can even push them against a brick wall to shield them from the wind.
“Twenty-nine is not going to kill plants totally, but you may get some freeze damage.”
When covering plants, however, Morgan said to avoid using plastic coverings.
“Don’t cover them with plastic,” he said. “Cover them with a cardboard box or a cloth sheet like you’d use to cover the floor when you paint.”
Low-to-the-ground plants can be covered with pine or other straw to shield them from the brief cold snap, he said.
Those in the area who have tropical fruit trees that are still producing should cover those trees if they’re small enough, he said.
“Cover the tropical trees that do better to the south,” he said. “They don’t tolerate the cold as much (as native trees). You could have fruit drop on that.”
Morgan also said that plant owners should make sure that the covers are removed Thursday morning once the freeze period is ended so that moisture doesn’t get trapped. During warmer daylight hours, he said, “You don’t want that plant to be under a box.”