Published on 01/06/11

From Columbus to Macon to Athens, Georgians saw snow on Christmas

By Pam Knox

Many Georgians enjoyed a rare "White Christmas" last month, but also had to contend with unusually frigid temperatures. Less-than-normal precipitation has led all but the northeast corner of the state deeper into drought conditions.

Atlanta reported a record snowfall of one-tenth of an inch Dec. 26, the first time measurable snowfall has been observed on that date. Athens reported a snowfall of 1.3 inches Dec. 26, beating the old record of a trace of snow on that date in 1953. Two inches fell in Athens on Dec. 25, passing the old record of two-tenths of an inch on that date in 1993. Columbus also reported a trace of snow for the first time on Dec. 26. Macon reported one-tenth of an inch of snow Dec. 25, the first time for that date.

Last "White Christmas" was in 1882

Two stations near Rabun Gap reported more than 6.5 inches of snow Dec. 26, the highest one-day values for the state in December. This was the first white Christmas for many areas in northern Georgia since 1882. Measurable snowfall was observed everywhere north of a line from Troup County on the western border to Elbert County in the northeast, and flurries were noted at many locations further south.

Black ice associated with the record-setting cold temperatures Dec. 14 and 15 led to thousands of accidents in northern Georgia. Ice accumulations of up to a quarter-inch were reported in the northern suburbs of Atlanta Dec. 15.

Low temperatures across the state

Temperatures across the state were significantly below normal in December. In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 38.3 degrees F (7.1 degrees below normal), in Athens 37.4 degrees (7.4 degrees below normal), Columbus 42.8 degrees (6.3 degrees below normal), Macon 40.9 degrees (6.9 degrees below normal), Savannah 43.7 degrees (7.7 degrees below normal), Brunswick 47.1 degrees (7.1 degrees below normal), Alma 43.8 degrees (9.8 degrees below normal), Valdosta 44.6 degrees (6.7 degrees below normal) and Augusta 39.4 degrees (7.5 degrees below normal).

Many daily record-low temperatures were broken. Temperatures were particularly low Dec. 14, when low temperatures broke records in Atlanta (14 degrees, beating the old record of 15 degrees set in 1917), Athens (14 degrees, beating 15 degrees set in 1942), Macon (18 degrees, beating 20 degrees set in 1960) and Augusta (10 degrees, beating 15 degrees set in 1960).

On Dec. 8 Athens dropped to 16 degrees, beating 20 degrees set in 2006. On the same day, Augusta was at 16 degrees, beating 18 degrees set in 1954, and Brunswick dropped to 30 degrees, beating 31 degrees set in 1954. On Dec. 10 Macon hit 19 degrees, beating 20 degrees set in 1995.

Drier than normal, too

Georgia was drier than normal across the entire state in December. The wettest areas were along a strip inland from the coast, several counties east of metro Atlanta and Rabun County. The driest area was in the far southeastern corner of the state near Brunswick.

The highest monthly total precipitation from National Weather Service reporting stations was 3.21 inches in Valdosta (0.45 inch below normal). The lowest was in Brunswick at 0.65 inch (2.18 inches below normal). Athens received 1.92 inches (1.79 inches below normal), Atlanta 1.62 inches (2.20 inches below normal), Alma 1.42 inches (2.25 inches below normal), Columbus 1.56 inches (2.84 inches below normal), Macon 1.08 inches (2.85 inches below normal), Savannah 1.63 inches (1.18 inches below normal) and Augusta 1.17 inches (1.97 inches below normal).

Despite overall dry conditions, some precipitation records were set in December. Atlanta reported a daily record rainfall of 2.11 inches Dec. 1, surpassing the old record of 1.89 inches set that date in 1880.

3.3 inches of rain fell on Dec. 1

The highest single-day rainfall from Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network stations was 3.30 inches near Carnesville in Franklin County Dec. 1. This was a continuation of the heavy rain from the last day of November. An observer near Riverdale in Clayton County reported 3.24 inches on Dec. 1. An observer near Dillard in Rabun County reported the highest monthly precipitation at 5.76 inches, including the water equivalent of 5 inches of snow.

There was no reported severe weather in December in Georgia.

Cold and dry conditions led to continuing deterioration of range and pasture, which was reported as poor to fair across most of the state by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Pam Knox is the director of the UGA Weather Network and serves as an agricultural climatologist with the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

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