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Nippy new year
'08 starting with arctic air, single-digit wind chills

LAWRENCEVILLE - Bundle up. The frigid temperatures that brought about an inch of snow to some counties in north Georgia on Wednesday are expected to continue today.

Although no snow is expected in Gwinnett County anytime soon, today's wind chill could drop as low as 5 degrees, said Mike Leary, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

Wednesday's overnight low was expected to be 17 degrees, and tonight's should be closer to 21, Leary said. Temperatures should reach the lower 40s today and climb back into the 50s on Friday and Saturday, he said.

No cold weather emergencies were reported Wednesday, said Capt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department. But cold weather does lead to an increase in the number of structure fires.

"Home heating is a leading cause of residential fires in Gwinnett County," Rutledge said.

Many of these fires are attributed to appliances that are poorly maintained or that are placed too close to combustibles, he said.

With the potential for icy conditions on the rise, Rutledge also said he urges Gwinnett County residents to prepare for the possibility of the loss of heat, power, gas and telephone service. Every household should have a emergency preparedness plan that includes a winter weather kit that can be easily put together, he said.

The kit should include items such as flashlights and extra batteries, a battery-powered weather radio and a portable AM/FM radio, extra food and water, extra medications, extra baby items for families with infants or small children, first-aid supplies, blankets, sleeping bags and extra clothing for warmth, he said.

Gwinnett County Public Schools students return to class today. Because the forecast calls for a dry day, it is unlikely that the cold weather will close schools.

In the case of inclement weather in the future, district officials said the decision to close schools will be made by 6 a.m. If schools are closed, announcements will be made though local media outlets and GCPS-TV. An announcement will also be made online at www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us.

Barrow County Schools students returned to class Wednesday without incident, said Lisa Leighton, the district's spokeswoman. The schools had no problems with their heat or pipes, she said.

Buford City Schools students do not return to school until Tuesday.