published Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Sweater weather rolls in for the Chattanooga area: Beyond early first freeze, winter looks about average

  • photo
    Paul Barys, chief meteorologist for the Channel 3 Eyewitness News Storm Alert Team
    Portraits by Mark Gilliland

Carolyn Park knows the deal. Prevent frost damage, cover the cold crops — broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and Swiss chard.

Especially the Swiss chard. It's "likely to suffer damage and not be able to survive," Park said.

Park and her husband, Paul, operate Park Farm Organic Growers on the Cumberland Plateau near Rockwood, Tenn.

This morning, parts of East Tennessee were expected to experience the season's first freeze. Right on time, Park said.

Paul's birthday is Oct. 24, and Carolyn said the season's first freeze almost always follows within seven to 10 days.

This year, "it's a little earlier than normal," Paul Barys, chief meteorologist at WRCB-TV, said Wednesday afternoon.

A frost advisory went into effect just after midnight this morning for most of Tennessee and Georgia, and a freeze warning went into effect for portions of East Tennessee and western North Carolina.

Barys said it's nothing too out of the ordinary as winter approaches.

For a seasonal outlook, "I'm thinking -- I'm leaning -- toward colder than normal," he said Tuesday.

Barys said it's very early to make long-term winter predictions and he usually waits until late November. It's a tricky business, he said.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration outlooks for winter 2013-14 seem to agree.

NOAA charts say the greater Chattanooga area stands an "equal chance" to experience higher- and lower-than-normal temperatures and precipitation this winter through February 2014.

"It's like flipping a coin," Barys said of the projections.

Derek Eisentrout, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn., said early NOAA projections do not point toward dramatic weather for Chattanooga this winter.

"We don't see any long-term trends that would make us believe this is going to be an either warmer or cooler-than-average winter," Eisentrout said Tuesday.

The average mean temperature for Chattanooga in November is 51 degrees, according to NWS data. For December, it's 42 degrees and for January, 40 degrees.

All weather goes back to patterns, according to Eisentrout. Some patterns create cooler weather, some warmer. Some patterns allow rain to come and stay -- like in July -- and some patterns lead to extended dry spells like the ones causing severe drought in Texas.

Looking forward, Eisentrout predicts "a typical fall/winter weather pattern," which includes room for seemingly random temperature fluctuations.

That means Thanksgiving Day could see temperatures in the 70s. Or the 30s.

When Christmas rolls around, it may be rainy or snowy. Or, skies may be cloudless.

Nothing about that is unusual, according to Eisentrout.

"These things are normal. They happen," he said.

As for snow, Barys predicts the Chattanooga area will receive 5 or 6 inches overall.

"I'm not really convinced of that yet," he said. "I may change that later."

According to NWS data, Chattanooga normally receives almost 4 inches of snow between October and March. January normals are the highest, at 1.7 inches. March is second with 1.2 inches.

Temperatures this month to date peaked at 87 degrees on Oct. 5. Monday, Chattanooga temperatures dipped to 38 degrees, the lowest so far for the month.

Meanwhile Wednesday afternoon, while fighting strong winds, the Parks were just getting ready for the weekend's cold weather -- and the freeze. Preparation is everything, Carolyn said.

Otherwise, "you're going to lose certain crops. Farmers know this."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 as a region business reporter. He is a native of Dayton, Tenn., located 35 miles north of Chattanooga, and he is a fifth-generation Dayton native. Alex came to the Times Free Press as an editorial intern in July 2013. He was previously a correspondent at The Herald-News, located in Dayton, through college and editor-in-chief of the Triangle, Bryan College's student-led media group. Alex was ...

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