The National Weather Service in Huntsville earlier this week described January as very cold and dry.

When I read that headline on the NWS webpage I thought, “duh.” I didn’t need the NWS to tell me that January was cold. However, I do appreciate the efforts of meteorologists to bring it into perspective and their daily work to keep us informed and safe.

According to NWS data, January was the eighth coldest on record in Huntsville with an average monthly temperature of 33.8 degrees (7.7 degrees below normal). By comparison, the warmest January on record was 1950 when the average temperature was 54.9 degrees and the coldest was 1940 at 26.2 degrees.

To bring January 2014 into focus one must look closely at the data. In a month where the average daily temperature ranges from the low 30s to just above 50 degrees, the Rocket City had five overnight lows in the single digits and six days when the temperature didn’t climb above freezing.

January was cold. The minimum low in Huntsville was 4 degrees on January 7, a record for the day. A record was also set on the 6th when the thermometer dropped to 6 degrees. The all time January low is -11 set on January 30, 1966 and tied on January 21, 1985.

But, how much attention do we pay to weather forecasters? It depends. An online poll on The Daily Sentinel website reveals that a majority of poll respondents, 42.9 percent, indicated they check weather forecasts regularly. Around the office, some of my cohorts keep up to date by checking online or on their cell phone several times a day no matter the forecast.

Not surprisingly, 28.6 percent of readers who participated in the poll said weather forecasts are very important. Those are people who use the information to plan what to wear and how to use the day.

Until this January, I couldn’t be counted among that number. But, when the temperatures began dropping I paid more attention. I’m glad I did. The insulated underwear I chose to wear on those coldest mornings sure made a difference to these old bones.

Almost 20 percent of respondents don’t pay much attention unless threatening weather is forecast and about 10 percent check the forecast when they can. I’m among the 20 percent. I’ve always been fascinated by threatening or extreme weather events and actually enjoy watching the Weather Channel, no matter the season, when there is live coverage of a storm in progress

Winter will be around awhile but soon we’ll be in the middle of severe weather season. That’s, as we know all too well, when we all need to pay attention. Those springtime systems can turn dangerous in a hurry producing severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Later this month, the NWS and Alabama Emergency Management Agency will observe Severe Weather Awareness Week. Together, with the help of media, they will highlight the dangers from different types of severe weather. Pay attention. Know what to do before a storm approaches. After all, Mother Nature has a mind of her own.

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