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Bitterly cold temperatures were felt across north and central Georgia beginning December 13th. Major reporting stations across north Georgia never reached the freezing mark on Monday, with Atlanta and Athens reporting a maximum temperature of 29 and 31ºF, respectively. At Atlanta, this was the first time since February 4, 1996 that Atlanta saw a high temperature of 29º F or less and the first day since January 9, 2010 that the temperature remained below freezing all day. These cold temperatures continued into the overnight hours. Both Atlanta and Athens reported a low of 14º F Tuesday morning, which broke the record of 15º F set back in 1917 at Atlanta and 15º F set back in 1942 at Athens. Temperatures rose just barely above freezing on Tuesday with 33º F as the high temperature at Atlanta. But on Wednesday, December 15, icy conditions struck north Georgia during the afternoon and overnight hours as precipitation moved across the state.
A low pressure system centered over northeast Texas spread mid-level moisture across Alabama and Georgia on Wednesday. Although the low-levels were initially dry across north and central Georgia, moisture and cooling from the evaporating precipitation allowed the low levels to become colder and more saturated. During the late morning hours and early afternoon, an area of rain, sleet and snow moved eastward across Alabama into western Georgia. Although light precipitation was noted on radar, some of the precipitation never reached the ground. A mid-level layer of clouds ahead of the precipitation also helped keep temperatures low during the day.
In Georgia, locations near Columbus were the first to report sleet and rain followed by snow reported in Carrollton in western Georgia. The snow then moved into the metro area by 2 pm and was mixed with sleet in some areas. By 3 pm, freezing rain was being reported at the Atlanta airport. This freezing rain continued through the evening and caused horrendous traffic problems, including over a thousand accidents, across much of north Georgia. Warm air from the Gulf of Mexico pushed into north Georgia early Thursday morning increasing temperatures before daybreak. Although some areas saw above freezing temperatures in the morning, other locations remained below freezing through the morning hours, allowing the dangerous road conditions to continue.