Its April Fool’s Day and one culprit guilty of playing tricks on people is Mother Nature. She is notorious for surprising Georgians throughout the year with unexpected severe weather, ranging from flash floods to snowstorms. Instead of being funny, these surprises are often dangerous and emphasize the need to be prepared in advance, regardless of what we think is going to happen.
One way Mother Nature tends to throw Georgia residents off track is by providing abnormal temperatures during different seasons. According to the National Weather Service, the highest recorded January temperature in Georgia was a balmy 79 degrees on Jan. 11, 1949, while June 1, 1889, clocked in a mere 39 degrees. The latest time in the year for a freeze occurrence documented in Georgia history is April 25, 1910, when temperatures dropped as low as 31 degrees. With the unreasonably warm temperatures, ice storms and tornadoes of recent months, it is apparent that Mother Nature began her pranks early in 2014.
Here are a few other times in Georgia history when Mother Nature pulled a fast one on us:
The Boomerang Hurricane: On Oct. 15, 1947, citizens of Savannah were hit with an unexpected whirlwind known as the Cape Sable Hurricane. It originated as a weak tropical cyclone that developed into a hurricane. After hitting Cuba and Florida, the storm appeared to be heading out to the Atlantic when it suddenly turned back west and hit unsuspecting Savannah residents. Winds reaching 95 miles per hour felled trees, peeled roofs off of houses and smashed windows and billboards throughout the city. The bizarre path was caused by a high pressure center that built north of the storm, and Savannah citizens were not notified of the hurricane until the morning before it hit.
Thundersnow: On Feb. 28, 2009, Georgia experienced a slew of thunderstorms throughout the state. The National Weather Service issued more than 25 tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, resulting in property damage and downed trees across central Georgia. However, residents were not out of the woods just yet. Immediately following these storms, cold air filtered into the state causing a combination of snow and lightning in some areas on March 1. These “thundersnows” are an extremely rare occurrence in Georgia.
Southeast Floods: In September 2009, metro Atlanta experienced historic, record-breaking flooding. A massive amount of rain, produced by moisture drawn from the Gulf of Mexico, fell faster than local watersheds could drain the runoff. Almost half of the state’s annual rainfall of 50 inches fell in some areas in only 24 hours. The Chattahoochee River was measured at a 500-year flood level, something that should only occur twice in a millennium. Other Georgia bodies of water that flooded include Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona and Sweetwater Creek. As a result of these floods, ten people lost their lives, and the state insurance commissioner estimated the resulting damage cost $250 million. Fortunately, this type of flood has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any given year.
Keith Stellman is the Meteorologist-in-Charge at the National Weather Service’s Peachtree City office