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Old Hixson Pike was made impassible by floodwater after heavy rains Saturday.

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Chickamauga dam controls Tennessee River flooding

Forecast

› Tuesday: High near 60 degrees, low of 49 degrees, 80 percent chance of rain

› Wednesday: High near 58 degrees, low of 43 degrees, 100 percent chance of rain

› Thursday: High near 51 degrees, low of 35 degrees, no rain predicted

› Friday: High near 45 degrees, low of 30 degrees, no rain predicted

› Saturday: High near 46 degrees, low of 30 degrees, no rain predicted

Source: The National Weather Service

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Cold, dry weather on the way

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Don't put away your umbrella, more rain is on the way

Wow, this is crazy weather, huh?

How many times have we said something like this to our friends, family members and neighbors over recent weeks as we waited for something more than a patchy frost or, hopefully, a true hard freeze to put the garden to rest — or just for some sunshine to cheer our souls? Both would be fabulous.

It's easy to blame this craziness on El Nio — that wicked weather pattern brewed up every two to seven years in the Pacific Ocean along the equator. Scientists explain that in an El Nio year, the trade winds that usually blow from east to west weaken and sea surface temperatures start rising. That in turn sets off a chain of atmospheric impacts that weather watchers call the effects of El Nio. Over 2015, scientists kept a close eye on the one they saw forming this year. They have said over and over that it seemed to be shaping up to be one of the strongest ever recorded.

According to Vox, this particular El Nio was expected to peak before January, "with far-reaching impacts all winter and spring," and based on past experience, it could bring much-needed rain to California, but also drought in Australia, destructive floods in Peru and so on. Already, this El Nio has helped make 2015 the hottest year on record. And scientists say it may do the same for 2016.

But we can't just blame all of the crazy weather on El Nio. NASA charts show quite clearly that El Nio isn't the only thing going on.

Tracking rising temperatures from 1950, El Nio years are getting hotter over time. Likewise, La Nia years are getting hotter. Normal years are getting hotter. The overall trend is hotter. And El Nio and overall rising temperatures feed on each other.

The result is more extreme weather. Like record rainfalls. Like record highs in December. Like still having no true hard freeze. Like unsettled skies that drop strings of deadly tornadoes out of season. Crazy weather.

Over the past week, nearly a foot of rain fell in parts of the Tennessee Valley, and the Tennessee River has risen above flood stage in parts of northern Alabama while lake levels in TVA's upstream reservoirs jumped by up to 20 feet by Monday morning. Tennessee Valley Authority forecasters said the lakes could rise another 10 feet from rains predicted Monday night through Wednesday. TVA, which manages the 652-mile Tennessee River and its tributaries, opened flood gates on all of its nine mainstream Tennessee River dams, while holding back water in the upstream tributary reservoirs. Barge traffic through Chattanooga has been shut down.

"We're in flood control mode working with the Army Corps of Engineers." said TVA spokesman Travis Brickey.

The Mississippi River is even more swollen than the Tennessee.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that floods and tornadoes already had killed at least 43 people in the southern and midwestern states over the Christmas holiday. Forecasters were warning that blizzards and freezing rain would add to that misery this week.

As for Chattanooga? Our city's annual average rainfall is 52.48 inches. But according to the National Weather Service, Chattanooga as of Dec. 27 had received 65.69 inches — some 14 inches above normal.

So far we've been inconvenienced, but little more — thankfully.

But giving thanks aside, it is time to listen to Mother Nature — if not to scientists.

Conservatives — often among the people least convinced that climate change is real and something we have affected and can still affect, either for better or worse — really need to listen if they truly want our government to be fiscally responsible.

The last truly massive El Nio appeared in 1997-1998 and ended up causing an estimated $35 billion in destruction and 23,000 deaths around the world. This new El Nio is even bigger — so much so that some forecasters have dubbed it the "Godzilla" of El Nios.

What do forecasters think this one means for us in the Tennessee Valley? Again, they reach for the averages in their data: El Nios generally bring more severe weather in the South. Scientists say that during an El Nio, the jet stream stretches from the eastern Pacific across the southern United States, often bringing more frequent and stronger storms to the region, particularly during the winter.

It's going to be winter for about three more months. And then it could well be a sweltering summer.

Are we having crazy fun yet?

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Rainfall of 4.14 inches doubles prior record; region begins to dry out, assess damage

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Thunderstorms, torrential rains pummel metro area

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Widespread flooding, storm and tornado damage across South

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