Why a Veteran Meteorologist Picked Georgia’s Golden Isles as a Place to Retire

georgia weather
St. Simons Island, one of Georgia's Golden Isles

P.J. Hoff, a certified meteorologist, picked Georgia’s Coast as a home after 20 years as a weather analyst for newspapers, radio, and television in Chicago. Here is his analysis of Georgia weather.

In my 20 years as a weatherman for television and radio, I was asked many questions:  the question most frequently asked was, “Weatherwise, where is the best place to retire?” The closer I got to retirement age the more I began to ask myself that question. I figured that in two decades of weather forecasting I had at least earned the right to retire to a place where I would be compatible with the climate.

I was serious about it. I researched it. My wife and I vacationed in areas where we thought we might like to live. Always partial to the seashore, we visited coastal areas all around the edge of the United States and Canada. In the end, we picked Georgia’s Golden Isles as our home, and Georgia weather is why.

A Good Climate Should Meet Four Requirements:

  1. It should have a daily mean temperature of around 65 degrees. The range between the two extremes should be moderate – just enough to avoid monotony.
  2. Relative humidity should be fairly constant – around 50 or 60 percent.
  3. There should be a moderately good movement of air to avoid stagnation.
  4. There should be abundant sunshine, broken up by enough clouds and rain to break the monotony of endless sunny days.

You can’t find a climate that meets all these conditions, but some come closer than others, and the closer you come, the less aggravated will be weather-induced illnesses, and the slighter the strain on older bodies trying to meet the stress of violent weather changes. Another thing to consider is how the weather affects you personally. Weather affects people differently. If you’re hit on the head with a bolt of lightning, you can be reasonably certain that weather has affected you, but there are more subtle influences. Some people with sinusitis have fewer attacks in moist climates, others fewer in dry climates, so individual differences must be considered.

Here’s How Georgia Weather Measured Up

Temperature

Average annual temperatures range from 60.7 degrees in the extreme north central to 65.4 in the southeast. The average number of days with a temperature of 32 or lower ranges from 110 in the north to about 10 in lower coastal regions.

Humidity

Relative humidities are comparatively high in most of Georgia because of the nearby Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, with a high frequency of wind flow from these warm bodies of water. Year-round average humidity is near 85 percent at 7 am, dropping to about 55 percent by 1 pm. That is an average of 70 percent, which is above the second requirement. Because of the closeness of the warm waters, we have warm humid summers and short mild winters, resulting in this higher humidity.

Movement of Air

Because of the lack of high coastal mountain ranges, we have the required good movement of air of the third requirement. Smog is caused by temperature inversions, warm layers of air above cooler layers, trapping air below it so that vertical motions are stopped. If an area is hemmed in between coastal mountains and high pressure over the ocean, smog develops, as often happens on the Pacific coast. There, far-out suggestions have been made to solve the problem, like tearing down the coastal range in order to let fresh air into Los Angeles.  The climate in places like this can’t be considered healthy. Those affected by smog are mostly older people, asthmatics, cardiacs and the physically weak. Fortunately, we have no coastal mountain range along the Georgia coast, so ventilation is abundant. If there is high pressure over the ocean, we have winds from the ocean; if the wind is from the west, there’s nothing to stop it but a few barbed wire fences.

Sunshine

The fact that sunshine is abundant is supported by a variety of interesting statistics. Savannah averages 105 clear days a year, Columbus 112, Macon 115, and Rome 105. In winter, Rome averages five hours of sunshine a day, while the southern part of the state gets six. When summer comes, the state as a whole averages nine hours of sunshine a day; the northeast gets 50 percent of the possible sunshine and the south gets 60 percent. Then we have cloudy days and Georgia’s normally abundant rains to keep it from getting monotonous.

I looked into several other factors that affect Georgia weather when contemplating my retirement.

The Atlantic and the Gulf Control Georgia Weather

Two bodies of water – the Atlantic and the Gulf, control the state’s weather. Most of the rain over Georgia and the rest of the eastern part of the country comes straight out of the tropical waters of the Gulf. The warm humid Gulf air has regular paths it likes to travel – over the central plains of the nation, up the Mississippi and over the Atlantic coast. Then, meeting cold continental air, it rises, cools and gets to work building cloud masses and rainstorms. The southern states see a greater variety of items from the Gulf’s bag of tricks. We have three kinds of storms: heavy rainstorms of the kind that frequently take place in later winter; in spring and summer, thunderstorms and tornadoes, often with torrential rains; and in late summer and fall, the tropical storms that sometimes turn into hurricanes.

Average Rainfall in Georgia

Average rainfall ranges from more than 71 inches in the northeast down to 40 inches in the east-central sections. Averages don’t tell the complete story of course. There was that fellow who failed to make it wading across a river that had an average depth of four feet. In 1959 Flat Top had 122 inches of rain and in 1954 Swainsboro in east central Georgia had only 15 inches. But those are extremes.

The lower east coast receives the state’s greatest rain amount during September as a rule because of rainfall resulting from late summer and autumn tropical storms. Snowfall is of no significance – only the extreme northern mountains have an annual average as high as five inches.

Hurricanes and Tornadoes

Before deciding on Georgia for retirement, I made a study of hurricanes and tornadoes and found some surprises. The state is seldom hit directly by the hurricanes that frequent that Atlantic Coast.  The bend in the coast, called the Georgia Bight, has something to do with it. Gulf hurricanes must come overland, which weakens them because their source of power is warm water. Those moving along the east coast of Florida tend to recurve to open water and the Carolinas.

There have been exceptions. In 1947 the first attempt to modify a hurricane by seeding was made on one churning north of the Bahamas. It made an unusual hairpin turn to the west and hit Savannah. Whether it would have done this without seeding is still not known. While a few others have made similar hairpin turns without seeding, notably Doria in 1967. After the 1947 experiments, the National Weather Service made stricter ground rules, seeding only storms that are several days from populated areas.

Georgia Barrier Islands Affect Georgia Weather

Our barrier islands have led a comparatively charmed life. If statistics is your cup of tea, since 1700 only 17 hurricanes have affected the Georgia coast, and 11 of those were minor. One of the minor ones was Doria, who couldn’t make up her mind and turned back down from the Jersey coast. She got close enough to unshingle a few Golden Isles roofs. But on the measuring stick of casualties and dollar-damage, she was a minor leaguer. Major hurricanes affecting the Golden Isles occurred in 1804, 1812, 1881, 1898, 1911 and 1940. Only two of the 17 had centers moving over the Golden Isles – a minor one in 1837 near Darien and the major one in 1898. Its center moved over Brunswick, causing a storm wave that carried floodwaters clear up to Newcastle Street. So we’ve had only one sockdolager in 274 years. A pitcher with that low an ERA would be an instant Hall of Famer.

As for tornadoes, several can be expected in Georgia – the annual average is 18. And most of those are in the western third of the state. Their highest frequency is in the spring – 50 percent coming in March and April. Statisticians give some consolation to people living in tornado areas. The probability of a tornado striking a given point is .1363 – or about once in 250 years. In figuring potential casualties, more than just the tornado frequency has to be taken into consideration. It has to be a combination of high tornado incidence and the concentration of population.

Georgia Weather Provides a Diversity of Climate

Any weather condition, good or bad, may have unfortunate results if it lasts too long. It’s depressing simply because it’s monotonous. It’s also harmful physically because the body tends to become less adaptable to change and, therefore, is more vulnerable to change when it does come. We choose Georgia weather because it supplies a diversity of climate. The four seasons are here but come on with a crash. Summers in the section we chose, the Golden Isles, are admittedly hot and humid, but moderate air-conditioning removes the stinger, and fall comes to the rescue. When fall departs and winter takes over, there isn’t a drastic change. We walk the beaches in comfort on most winter days. And spring… spring is for the poets. We can be proud of Georgia weatherwise and otherwise.

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