Winter starts with clouds, rain

LAWRENCEVILLE - Rain instead of snow will welcome the first official day of winter this year.

With 20 percent chance of showers during the day today and 50 percent tonight, the first winter day will be cloudy instead of white as the temperatures stay in the 40s and 50s.

The metro Atlanta area has not seen snow since 2005, an occurrence that prompts the shutdown of many schools and businesses.

While many residents dream of waking to a world blanketed with snow on Christmas day, that dream is not a likely reality. Instead a high of 48 degrees and a chance of rain awaits Christmas.

"I like it when it snows but I'm not a winter person," said Natscha Ridley of Lawrenceville. "I'm going to make the best of it. I'm not going to let (the rain) ruin my Christmas."

The last time the area experienced the surprise of snow was February 2005 in which half and inch of snow fell and in 2004 with two and a half inches of snow.

Temperatures in the 70s and sunshine was the weather for many days during the beginning of December, weather usually seen in spring.

"We set quite a few record high temperatures earlier this December," said meteorologist Stephen Conarak with the National Weather Service Forecast. "A high pressure (across Georgia) kept all the cold fronts from moving in Georgia."

While Gwinnett and other residents in the metro area will not be shoveling snow from their driveways anytime soon, Georgia's Department of Transportation is already prepared for any of winter's problems.

Almost 2,650 DOT workers will be on active duty throughout the state to ensure Georgia's roads are clear and safe. Numerous trucks are ready to be deployed if roads begin to ice with major interstates to be tackled first.

"When you have ice storms there are many emergencies. It is very, very important for the emergency vehicles to be able to get to the people they need to help and to make their way through," said Mark McKinnon, media relations manager of GDOT.

DOT's Highway Emergency Response Operators, also known as HEROs, monitor traffic and assist drivers with car troubles and help clear accidents from the roads, a necessity with winter car troubles ahead.

"Our main concern is ice. We usually have more problems with ice than snow in the south. You can navigate snow easier," said McKinnon who warned drivers to make sure their car is properly maintained this winter to avoid being stranded on the highway in case car failure.

Each county holds a DOT maintenance building, each with supplies such as salt, fuel, gravel and supplies in case needed for emergencies.

While Georgia is prepared for winter weather affecting transportation, the state's winter is much different than in other areas of the country.

Snow storms that hit Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri led to thousands of people without power and heat. Almost 2,800 people fled to homeless shelters after the storm in Kansas and 38 people died due to traffic accidents during the storm. States across New England also experienced storms that left up to 15 inches of snow in some areas.

While snow plights northern states, Georgia is still amidst one of the worst droughts in recent memory. With chances of rain in the forecast it still is not enough to make a sustainable difference in the severity of the situation.

"(The rain) has not done that much," said Conarack. "It just maybe stopped the lakes from dropping."

The drought is expected to last throughout the winter. Despite much needed rain in the schedule, there is not much chance of snow for the area this winter since temperatures are not expected to fall into the levels needed to produce snow.