Shivery digits

Published 9:03 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service offered tips to ensure Alabama residents would be prepared to experience the coldest continuous temperatures of the winter season:

Have a winter-ready home (insulated water pipes, alternate heat source)

Have a family emergency plan (including plan for pets and livestock)

Have a family emergency kit (blankets and warm clothes in addition to usual kit supplies)

– Alabama Emergency Management Agency

The mercury is getting ready to drop — and Chilton County is going down with it.

The National Weather Service forecasts lows in the mid teens tonight and Friday night, and highs in the lower 40s today and upper 30s tomorrow.

“It should stay dry for the whole time, so we shouldn’t have any problems with snow or ice,” Meteorologist Michael Garrison said.

By the weekend, temperatures are expected to modify closer to average, with highs running near 50 and lows dipping to the mid-20s.

That might sound bad for crops, but it would be worse if it happened in February, Area Horticulturalist Bobby Boozer said.

Boozer recalled early February 1996 when the area saw single digits — a kind of cold Chilton County peaches weren’t prepared for.

“We received a lot of damage,” he said. “Of course, we were [further] ahead on chill hours then than we are now.”

Fruit buds are more vulnerable if they have had more time to become active before cold weather hits. Fortunately, this week’s arctic blast is happening while many buds are still dormant.

“I think we’re still possibly in a more vulnerable state that time of year (February),” Boozer said, adding that he expects some damage, but not as bad.

The cold is not necessarily bad news for livestock either, Regional Extension Agent Jack Tatum said. If precipitation were in the forecast, however, his outlook would be quite different.

“That’s a lot better than having rainy weather while it’s cold,” he said.

Cattle, horses and goats all seem to be in good shape this year. Hay is plentiful, and calves are at a size to survive the cold, at 300 pounds or better.

“With the shape livestock are in now,” it should be no problem,” Tatum said.

One foreseeable hindrance is water freezing in troughs. Also, if there are any births, mothers must act quickly to shield them from the cold.