We began 2022 with back-to-back winter storms and they sure took their toll on north Georgia. Our first storm had the Lake Lanier area in its sites. Our nemesis, the cold air “wedge” as it’s called, brought 4 inches of snow and 50-plus mile per hour winds. Some areas also had freezing rain.
The official name is CAD or, Cold Air Damming. This occurs when a cold high pressure system up across New England drives cold air to the south. It is a shallow layer of cold air that behaves very much like water. Our north Georgia mountains act like a dam. The cold air flows in from the Northeast and hugs the ground, becoming locked across Hall County. When warm moist air moves in over the top of the shallow layer of cold air, precipitation first falls and rain, freezing on impact on any ground at or below 32 degrees. As the freezing rain continues to fall through the wedge, it makes it even colder, resulting in the precipitation turning into all snow. January is notorious for this type of “wedge” scenario, and is unique to northeast Georgia.
As we move into February, our average low is 38 with our average high being 55 degrees. Believe it or not, February is actually the month with the highest snowfall days (0.9 days). One of the most memorable February winter weather events occurred on February 8th, 1973. It got so cold that inches of freezing rain coated the trees. Following the freezing rain, 3-5 inches of snow fell here in northeast Georgia. Travel was impossible. In middle Georgia we saw 12-18 inches of snow! It was so cold we had flurries in Miami! That was a big one for sure. 1973 was also a La Nina winter, like we are having now. I am not making a prediction of a major ice storm like that, but we’ve had some close calls in January.
Severe storms can and do occur in February too. We experienced a tornado outbreak on February 13-14, 2000. Three deadly tornadoes hit several counties of southwest Georgia, killing 18 and causing extensive damage to neighborhoods on the south edge of Camilla where 11 died, as well as the area north of Meigs where six died. It was the single deadliest tornado outbreak in the United States between June 1999 and October 2002.
What can you take away from all this? February can bring it all. It’s a month to really stay weather aware. I am praying the prediction of a warmer month actually happens!