Area citizens bundled up outside the Albany Rescue Mission are looking for a warm meal and place to get in out of the cold. In addition to warm meals, the mission also opens it’s chapel during nights where the temperature gets below 25 degrees to allow more room for the needy to get out of the cold. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — As cold weather grips portions of the country, folks in the Albany area are preparing themselves for a cold snap coming the first of the week.
The National Weather Service predicts hard freeze and wind chill advisories beginning Monday as temperatures are expected to plummet in southwest Georgia.
According to Jeanie McDermott, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee, Fla., Albany and the surrounding areas will be experiencing chilly weather Monday and Tuesday, and residents need to be prepared.
“We’re expecting a cold front to move through the start of this week,” said McDermott. “We’ll probably be issuing a hard freeze warning since lows are predicted to be below 26 degrees. I’d imagine we’ll also have a wind chill advisory. We’re telling people to bundle up because it’ll be cold.”
McDermott said Monday’s high will be 49 degrees, with a low of 23 degrees. Things will get even colder Tuesday when the high will be just 39 degrees.
While these temperatures are lower than average, forecasters do not expect any record lows for the area.
“It is going to be unseasonably cold and colder than average,” McDermott said. “However, it will not be record breaking.”
Despite not reaching records, temperatures have been getting low enough to prompt residents to prepare to battle the elements.
Steve Woods, who manages the heating supply area at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Albany, said his department has been inundated with customers looking for ways to keep warm.
“We’ve seen a big rush on heaters and heating supplies,” said Woods. “Every other person that’s come in has asked, ‘where are the space heaters?’”
In addition to space heaters, Woods said the store has also seen an increase in the sale of fire wood, outdoor stoves and fire pits, as well as electric fireplaces.
“The electric fireplaces have been a big seller for us,” said Woods. “They’ve got blowers that move the heat and they’re very efficient and safe.”
Jim King, store manager of Home Depot in Albany, said that while the sale of heaters has been strong, a lot of customers have been looking for pipe insulation to prevent ruptured pipes. They’re also looking for heat lamps to keep outside pets warm.
“Pets and keeping water from freezing are the big things for us right now,” said King. “We’re seeing a lot of people buying pipe insulation to protect faucets and water heater blankets. A lot of people have outside wells that need that insulation. Heat lamps are really big for pets, too.”
King went on to say that while sales of heaters and heating supplies have been strong, the cold weather actually has a negative impact on the store’s core business as people are less apt to get involved in outdoor projects.
“They problem with us is (the cold weather) hurts other business,” King said. “Nobody wants to be outside painting the house when the paint won’t dry.”
Despite the lag in sales for outdoor projects, King said the store does have a lot of customers coming in to buy supplies to tackle inside projects.
“Our business goes more internal this time of year,” said King. “Kitchen’s, bathrooms, flooring, that kind of thing.”
With residents looking for ways to keep warm, local officials warn about the dangers certain heat sources can bring for those who are not properly prepared.
Jim Vaught, the Deputy Director of the Emergency Management Agency in Albany, said residents need to understand some of the dangers that come with trying to heat a residence.
Vaught points to residents improperly using space heaters as a major cause of house fires during the colder months, as people tend to put the heaters too close to beds or drapes.
“People need to practice safety measures when using space heaters,” said Vaught. “There should be a three foot buffer space around the heater and they should be kept away from kids and the areas they play in. And you really should never use fuel burning heaters inside.”
Another concern of the EMA is people using stoves as a way to heat their homes, which can also lead to fires.
“One of the big things we try to help people understand is that the stove is not a heat source for the home,” said Vaught. “Unfortunately people use that as a heat source and turn on all the burners and open the stove and then they end up leaving the room and the next thing you know there’s a fire.”
Lori Farkas, Assistant General Manager of Customer Relations and Marketing for Albany’s Water, Gas and Light Commission, echoed Vaught’s sentiment saying that WG&L officials also warn residents of the dangers of using stoves and heaters to keep residences warm.
“People down here are just not that used to the cold weather so often they don’t know how to properly use heaters,” Farkas said. “People put them too close to beds and in closets and when they’re too close to things that are flammable, things catch fire.”
Farkas also said the use of space heaters and stoves to heat homes also can have a negative impact on a person’s utility bill as those methods of heating use more energy. Farkas said many residents think by using space heaters they are saving money but in actuality it’s cost them more while also creating fire hazards.
“A lot of people think they are doing the right thing when, in fact, they aren’t,” said Farkas. “Space heaters are very expensive to run. People who use them as opposed to running central heating and air are always surprised when they get their power bill. “
Both Farkas and Vaught said the best way to handle the cold weather is simply to be prepared for what can occur when trying to keep the home warm.
“It’s really just preparation, planning and staying informed,” said Vaught. “Have a plan. You should always have a plan for an emergency.”