A rare cold system that swept through the Southeast on Monday brought an early taste of winter and expected record low temperatures for today.
Monday's low temperature recorded at Augusta Regional Airport was 38 degrees.
Temperatures were expected to dip into the 36-degree range by early this morning, said Kay Robinson, spokeswoman for the National Weather Service.
That would break the record for the lowest temperature recorded for Oct. 10 - a balmy 41 degrees in 1996.
Although Augustans had to break out winter coats a bit early this year, they should be able to return them to their closets by the end of the week.
Weather officials said local temperatures should return to normal - near the 80s - in a few days.
In the meanwhile, the region was reeling from the cold snap.
Other Southern cities had even lower temperatures Monday. Among the lowest were: 26 in Cleveland, Ga.; 29 in Huntsville, Ala.; and 33 in Raleigh, N.C.
"We haven't seen these kinds of temperatures this early since the early 1900s," said Kent McMullen, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Peachtree City, Ga.
While it is too early for officials to tell whether the cold spell shows any indication of a harsh winter, residents that use oil and natural gas to heat their homes are hoping for a mild season.
Officials have warned about increased heating oil and natural gas prices that will hit consumers this winter.
Nationally, natural gas is expected to cost 27 percent more than it did last year, with no extra resources to draw on to help soften the blow.
After years of cutting production because of falling prices, natural gas companies are expected to increase drilling, but not in quantities that will affect this winter's supply.
Georgia Natural Gas, which is the state's largest supplier of natural gas, has warned its customers that prices have increased significantly and will continue to grow in winter months.
The company has offered suggestions for it customers to cut down on costs, including: checking the insulation levels of homes, setting furnaces to lower levels, between 65 degrees and 68 degrees, and using ceiling fans sparingly in the winter.
Heating oil, which is not used as much in the South as in Northern states, also will cost more this year.
The price for heating oil is expected to be nearly 23 percent more than last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Local social work officials won't know exactly how these increases will affect those that depend on assistance for winter heating bills, specifically the elderly and poor, until this year's Energy Assistance Program begins in November.
The program helped nearly 1,700 households in the area last year, said Patricia Cobb, an official in the program's local agency.
Associated Press reports were used in this article.
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227.
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