While a lot of the hype on social media this week (at least among meteorologists) has been the potential for snow somewhere in the Southeast or on the East Coast, the bigger story for most of us is going to be the coming cold weather, according to James Spann, well-known Birmingham meteorologist. The conditions he is describing will be generally true across most of the region. Temperatures are predicted to bottom out in the period from December 23 to 25, leading to very cold conditions in most of the region except for southern Florida. Many areas may see a day or two below freezing before temperatures start to rise again. In some areas it may stay below freezing for more than a day. Some areas may see snow or at least flurries, although the most recent forecasts have cut down the likelihood of snow in most places due to the mismatch of where the coldest air is and where the moisture is.

Impacts from the extreme cold will be significant for most of us and you need to prepare now to deal with those cold conditions, especially in more northern areas. If you have pets, plan to bring them inside. If you have livestock, make sure that they have shelter and access to liquid water, since protracted temperatures below 32 F could make access to drinking water difficult due to frozen conditions. If you have crops like strawberries, they are likely to need to be covered unless they are fully hardened off. Here is an article from NC State Extension on what to do to protect strawberries from the cold conditions they may experience.

If you are traveling, you will need to be especially aware of impending weather conditions along your route to your final destination. If driving, make sure that you have a winter emergency supply kit in your car. Watch the forecasts carefully and stay regularly updated, since changes to the forecast are likely. Don’t look at the forecast today and assume it will be the same by the end of the week. Weather apps on cell phones are not updated often enough to be useful, especially in winter conditions. If you are flying, be prepared to experience delays or cancellations since connecting flights may be coming from places that are experiencing worse weather than we are in the Southeast. If you can change your plans, you might wish to consider doing so.

Before you leave, make sure that your pipes can handle the cold weather without freezing or you may find a mess when you return. If you stay home, know how to turn off the water to your house in case your pipes do freeze. Check on your friends and neighbors to make sure they have heat and shelter.