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Kirk Mellish's Blog

    Fortunately with all the rain runoff temperatures tonight are expected to remain above freezing for most of us so no black ice concerns for the Monday morning rush hours except far North. Creeks and streams will continue high due to continued runoff, many are already at flood stage or over.  GFS AMERICAN MODEL AND ECMWF EUROPEAN MODEL ENSEMBLE TEMPERATURE GUIDANCE: Follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB.
  • The above map shows the current Winter Weather Bulletins in effect for Georgia. As I’ve been warning in my blog here all week the rain/snow line is likely to shift even up to the last minute. As I pointed out the models often do not handle the strength of “the wedge” (CAD) well usually being too warm. They have also “tweaked” the models so we don’t know if they will perform better or worse than they used to so that makes it more difficult to make confident human adjustments to their output. As is typically the case, some models show a lot of snow and ice and others show little or none, and they show different locations as well.  We can not rule out that the wintry mix will end up further West and South over most of the Metro area than what is currently being shown so be prepared just in case and stay tuned for updates.  Flood Watch and Wind Advisory for all of Metro Atlanta. Isolated power outages possible tonight and Sunday. Flooding possible for the usual creeks and streams.  It is likely the lines depicted will have to be adjusted in future updates and they could be move South or North.  I’ll have more updates later.  Follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB. Atlanta National Weather Service technical discussion: SURFACE WEATHER CHART SATURDAY AFTERNOON/EARLY EVENING: FORECAST SURFACE CYCLONE TRACK (dots indicate model spread of low center):
  • In the map above dark green is a Flood Watch, blue is a Winter Storm Watch, and pink is a Winter Storm Warning.  SATURDAY SURFACE WEATHER CHART: SUNDAY MORNING SURFACE WEATHER CHART: PREDOMINANT PRECIPITATION TYPE: Low amounts of ice are possible near and north of the yellow line, with the highest amounts of freezing rain sleet and snow near and north of the blue line. Between the green and yellow lines it should be more rain than anything else but a brief mix or change to sleet or freezing rain is possible with no impact. Near and south of the green line just rain.  As always remember the lines could shift North OR South at the last minute so check back for updates.  If you have not already please read the previous blog posts for *important details* I wont repeat here in this blog post.  3 inches of rain, soggy soils and wind gusts over 30 mph late Saturday night into Sunday can cause problems as previously covered.  The usual suspect creeks and streams are likely to flood. A wintry mix could briefly make it as far South as I-20 but it’s not likely. The main area to watch as of now anyway still looks to be North of Athens and East of Jasper Sunday. ESTIMATED AVERAGE RAINFALL ENDING MONDAY MORNING: For more follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB.
  • No major change to what I’ve been outlining since Monday for the weekend as of now. There will likely be revision of the details in the next couple days as the storm comes into better focus. Heavy snow for the Northeast corner of Georgia, more rain than anything else for MOST of Atlanta, but still the risk of some ice accumulation North and East of the perimeter, but especially Hall County and adjacent areas.  As I’ve noted previously, the computer models often do not handle temperature predictions well in a “wedge” (CAD) event like this associated with a “Miller A” winter storm system, they are often too warm. And as I said since NOAA has made changes to the models to try to improve them, it will take a few years for us to learn their new quirks, strengths and weaknesses.  Over the years I’ve tried to educate on how the equations only need to be off the mark by a degree or less for the forecast to go from good to bad. The normal and to be expected margin of error is GREATER than that.  STORM IN QUESTION UNDERWAY TODAY FROM TEXAS EAST: Remember that some typical flooding of the usual suspect creeks and streams will be possible and with soggy soils and winds gusting over 30 mph at times some trees might fall causing a few scattered power outages. Rain totals of 2-3 inches expected on average.  As always the lines of demarcation for precipitation TYPE are not “magic walls in the sky”. They are more a transition ZONE from one type of precipitation to another that is at least 15 miles wide but sometimes only miles and other times 30 miles depending on storm structure, track and 3D thermodynamics.  And naturally they can move North OR South even at the last minute.  Since we KNOW the weekend weather will be wet and cold even if there is no ice or snow anywhere, why not do what ya gotta do by end of day Friday and bunker down safe and sound on the weekend. That’s my plan, That’s always my plan. Better safe than sorry. Plan for the worse hope for the best.  Accumulation of ice of a tenth to a quarter of an inch is possible mainly Northern Hall County and adjacent areas. However, as I said the amounts and locations will likely change in future forecast updates. I’ll have them on the radio Friday through Sunday and next week as needed.  SURFACE WEATHER CHART SATURDAY: SURFACE WEATHER CHART LATE SATURDAY NIGHT INTO SUNDAY: ESTIMATED AVERAGE RAINFALL ENDING MONDAY MORNING: MODEL NOTES: Models differ greatly on where the best evaporative cooling will take place, some say only the NE corner of the state, others say all the way to downtown Atlanta or even South of the airport and to Athens. No way to know which will be right but it makes deciding where to draw the rain vs. ice line very difficult and subject to unexpected changes one direction or another once the rain starts falling in earnest. The synoptic set up is classic with the low tracking east near the Gulf Coast and with high pressure centered over PA to feed colder drier air down the east slopes of the mountains to meet the warm moist air coming in from the South and West where it overrides and lifts up on top of the cooler drier air (”over-running or isentropic lift).If the majority of models are right the warm air will mostly win out and its just a cold rain for the majority of the area, but if the numerical weather prediction equations UNDER estimate the strength of the wedge then the system will over-perform and more of the area will get some ice. As I’ve pointed out for years now the margin of error is very tiny, and the NORMAL error in modeling much larger which is why, unless you are located “in the heart of a system” instead of near the edges its a fine line between being on target or the forecast dart being off into the wall. In the middle of a system forecasts are on more solid ground because the air mass is more uniform. But on the edges like we are so often in Georgia thanks to terrain, geography and storm tracks its more iffy. For more follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB.
  • The surface weather map ABOVE shows the complex weather system out West that is heading our way this weekend. So far I’ve not had to change my outlook from the blog I posted back on Monday morning much at all. While anybody anywhere in the metro area could see some sleet (ice pellets) or snow flakes briefly, most of us just get a cold rain and lots of it.  AS OF NOW, the only area where some accumulation is possible is near and north of a line from Carters Lake to Canton to Athens. Heavy sleet and snow is still possible in the Northeast corner of the Georgia mountains.  Obviously this could change so keep checking back for updates on the radio, here in this blog and in my forecast page online.  Download the WSB Radio APP. NOTES: NE corner of GA snow breaks out Sat night Far North and East suburbs rain mixes with or changes to sleet (ice pellets) by  Sunday There could be a brief period of INSIGNIFICANT sleet or flurries before sunrise Saturday anywhere, then again Saturday night-Sunday morning, and again at times on Monday.  Soggy soils and strong gusty winds mean a few scattered power outages from trees falling  Routine type flooding of the usual creeks and streams will be likely by late Saturday or Sunday, as well as ponding on roads. The highest risk of some accumulation of sleet near and North of a line from Ellijay to Athens, give or take 20 miles or so. But as always those lines could shift North OR South in future updates.  Heavy snow is probable in the Northeast corner of Georgia.  The models usually do a poor job with temperatures in “the wedge” (CAD) pattern like this usually being too warm.  The models have been “tinkered with” so forecasters don’t have experience using the new versions, it will take a few years to learn how the new computer model versions perform and how to adjust them.  SATURDAY MORNING WEATHER CHART: SUNDAY MORNING SURFACE CHART: MONDAY SURFACE WEATHER CHART: FLOOD RISK AREAS: WEEKEND ESTIMATED RAINFALL AVERAGE AMOUNTS: Sunday-Monday is the MAIN period for any frozen precip accumulation but timing is subject to change of course. Again accumulation is most likely in the mountains with some possible for Hall County and adjacent areas. Details may change.  Too early to predict snow sleet or freezing rain amounts but here are the risk levels as of now: More specifics coming in future updates.  Here is the National Weather Service Office discussion: For more Follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB.
  • The above map is all that can be outlined this far in advance of next weekends weather system. Snow sleet and ice are most likely in the Northeast Georgia mountains. But at this distance those lines will certainly shift South OR  North. It’s way too soon to say how much because we don’t know yet what TYPE precipitation will fall. The TIMING is also iffy at this point as it could be anytime next weekend, as of now it looks like both Saturday and Sunday will have precipitation and there could be heavy rain.  I am highly confident there WILL be a storm system, but the temperatures are uncertain not just at the surface but also aloft. Long-time followers or weather enthusiasts/hobbyists who pay attention to these things already have the background from past blogs to understand how a “Miller A” and “Miller B” system impacts our region along with “CAD Events” (Cold-Air Damming) aka “The Wedge”. They also know no two are ever exactly alike.  They also know that if the models are off by just a tenth to a quarter of a degree that can be the difference between a good forecast and a forecast “bust”. They also know that is a tiny tiny margin of error and NO MAN or MODEL is capable of nailing that, the normal and expected margin of error is LARGER than that given the current state of the art of the science.  The system in question is still over the Pacific Ocean West of California: NOTE: the last box is true in states like Kansas where the graphic was made where snow is common and they don’t have the complications we have with the mountains, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean effects, not true here because of those complications.   A “split-flow” jet stream pattern is typical in an El Nino winter and will often keep the Southern tier of the country in an active weather pattern including winter precipitation risks.  500mb (about 18,000 feet) Jet Stream Forecast ECMWF Ensemble Next Saturday Evening : The system is expected to move into Southern California and move across Northern Mexico and South Texas then track East near the Gulf Coast before turning Northeast up the Atlantic Coast then out to sea Saturday through Monday:   Stay tuned. For more follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB. This is Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Georgia! Learn to prepare here. 
  • Despite the  'Black Swan Event' snow last December in the NW suburbs, and even a White Christmas in 2010 when the  Atlanta Metro area saw between 1-3 inches - the first measurable snow on Christmas Day since 1881, snow is very rare in Georgia in December.  The more common months for it to occur are January-March. I’ve lived here for over 3 decades and over that time there have been more winters with no snow or just a tease than winters with significant snow.  The map above is the American GFS Ensemble snow forecast to December 7th. The map below is the European Ensemble model snowfall anomaly forecast to December 13th showing in green where snow amounts are projected above-normal (it looks right to me): You already knew if you read previous blogs and tweets that the pattern was trying to be favorable even in the South through the first part of December. But it still looks to me like the most favorable area will stay North of Georgia for at least the next 7 days or so.  GFS ENSEMBLE MODEL SNOW TO DECEMBER 7TH: ECMWF ENSEMBLE SNOW TO DECEMBER 12TH: GFS ENSEMBLE SNOW ENDING DECEMBER 16TH: ECMWF 6-WEEK ENSEMBLE SNOWFALL OUTPUT: I am NOT forecasting the snow shown in these models as I currently have good reason to doubt them, doesn’t meant it can’t happen but long time followers know I do not like to be a fear-monger or a rumor starter when it comes to snow and ice just to get attention. Models are a tool but just one tool and I practice METEOROLOGY not MODELOLOGY.  So I DO NOT see snow for Atlanta and probably not for all of Georgia through at least December 7th. Beyond that is more uncertain but I do not buy the model output as of now.  This *potential* has been on my radar (pun intended) for a long while now, here is the email I sent to my bosses November 16th as a behind the scenes heads up for planning just in case: However, with a split-flow jet stream pattern expected to develop there is some potential for ice or snow but there is NO storm to track at this time.   IF it gets to the point I think there’s a realistic chance I will blog about it.  Below is the 15 day temperature guidance from both the GFS and ECMWF ensembles: Some discrepancy in the ECMWF climate model and ensemble for DECEMBER: Based on research and analogs on things like Stratospheric polar vortex disruption (weakening then restrengthening), Mountain-torque changes to global angular momentum, and a wave-train in the Pacific jet stream extension it looks like a milder period will return for mid December after a cold start, then it may end turning colder again into January. “I am dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I almost never know” For more follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB.
  • Not exactly great weather for outdoor Christmas activities or college football tailgating this Saturday. The above is the SIMULATED Radar mid-day tomorrow from the 3km NAM-WRF model. Rain is likely at times Saturday with some scattered thunderstorms in the mix as well.  The risk of a severe storm with damaging winds is still there but remains low, highest odds to our West and South. That could change so stay tuned for updates.  As of now the most widespread rain Saturday looks to be between 7am and 4pm give or take a couple hours.  Rain and thunder odds diminish overnight Saturday and much of the day Sunday looks dry with a better chance of rain Sunday night into early Monday morning. SATURDAY SEVERE WEATHER RISK LEVELS: ESTIMATED RAINFALL AMOUNTS SATURDAY MORNING/EARLY AFTERNOON: ESTIMATED RAIN AMOUNTS SATURDAY LATE AFTERNOON: ESTIMATED RAINFALL SATURDAY NIGHT: ESTIMATED RAINFALL SUNDAY NIGHT: ESTIMATED AVERAGE RAIN TOTALS FRIDAY-SUNDAY: High temperatures in the lower 60s Saturday and low 70s Sunday but turning much colder again by Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, back well below-normal.  For more follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB.
  • As I pointed out at the start of the week the thermometer roller-coaster ride is going to continue the next 2-3 weeks. Above you can see the 16-day above and below normal temperature pattern projected by the American GFS model.  We warm into the 50s for highs this afternoon and to the lower 60s by Saturday to start December and a high Sunday of  70 or above! However it turns cold again by next Wednesday with highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s. In the active El Nino jet stream pattern it will be hard to come by dry weather for more than 2 or 3 days in a row as temperatures swing from below normal to above normal to back below normal over and over into at least the first half of December.  A few scattered showers around the area on Friday with amounts averaging around a tenth of an inch, but the better rain coverage will come on Saturday. As I’ve been saying all week the rain odds are high Saturday, but there should be at least some hours that are not raining. Rain amounts Saturday averaging .25-.50 of an inch.  There is still a risk of a damaging thunderstorm winds Saturday but as of now it looks like that would be only isolated and not widespread.  The higher risk of severe weather looks to be West and South of Atlanta. Stay tuned for updates in case that changes.  The weekend weather results from a huge storm system in the center of the nation heading eastbound: ESTIMATED RAINFALL FRIDAY: ESTIMATED RAINFALL AMOUNTS FIRST HALF OF SATURDAY: ESTIMATED RAINFALL AMOUNTS SECOND HALF OF SATURDAY: ESTIMATED 66-HOUR RAIN TOTALS ENDING SATURDAY NIGHT: SEVERE WEATHER RISK AREAS SATURDAY: For more Follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB.
  • Temperatures this morning were near freezing or just below (map above). A top 10 coldest morning for this time of year and 15 degrees or so below-normal for this time of year. You can see the extensive cold snap in the image below: To put the cold in perspective the highs today would be 10 degrees BELOW NORMAL if this was JANUARY! Even colder tomorrow morning all the way down through Florida there will be a winter level chill: HARD FREEZE Wednesday morning: WEDNESDAY HIGH TEMPERATURE FORECAST: The warming trend starts Thursday and will continue into early next week, the 60s return on the weekend but at the price of rain and possible thunderstorms. Right now it looks like a wedge-like pattern will keep most of the severe thunderstorms away from Atlanta this weekend but too soon to be sure.  Given the active El Nino jet stream we will be hard pressed to get more than 3 dry days in a row for the foreseeable future. The thermometer roller coaster ride will continue as well. Strap in, throw your hands up in the air and scream. For more follow me on Twitter @MellishMeterWSB.

News

  • A hiker walking in the woods in Windham, Maine, this month spotted a rare albino porcupine and managed to capture it on video. >> Read more trending news  Greg Strand told WCSH-TV that he heard a commotion and quickly hid to see what was coming. Strand said he saw a large adult porcupine and then was surprised to discover a smaller beast following it. He said the smaller animal practically blended in with the snow on the ground as it moved behind the larger animal. It was a rare albino porcupine. Stand’s wife posted the video of the encounter on Facebook. An official with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife told WCSH that it’s very unusual to see an albino animal in the state. >> Related: Rare white baby reindeer captured in photos in Norway Albino animals, regardless of species, are pretty rare,” agency official Ryan Robicheau said.       
  • A co-founder of the Shepherd Center died “peacefully” Monday morning, the hospital confirmed. James Harold Shepherd Sr., 90, was a fourth-generation Atlantan who helped found the private nonprofit hospital that specializes in spinal cord injury treatment and research, hospital spokeswoman Jane Sanders said in a news release. Shepherd, who had five siblings, started Shepherd Construction Company with his brothers, and his family oversaw the construction of hundreds of miles of interstate highways in Georgia and several surrounding states in addition to thousands of miles of city and county streets since 1949, the release said. In 1973, Shepherd sustained a spinal cord injury in a bodysurfing accident, which helped motivate him to found the Shepherd Center along with his wife, Alana, their son, James, and Dr. David F. Apple Jr., the release said. The center opened in 1975.  “He wanted to be here, talk to people, to be around the hospital and watch as it grew,” said Julie Shepherd, his granddaughter, who is a case manager at Shepherd Center. “He often talked about how proud he was of Shepherd Center. His construction career had been rewarding in one way, but he was even prouder of what they’d done here (at the hospital) and the lives they’d changed.” The Georgia General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution to designate a section of Peachtree Road in Buckhead to be renamed J. Harold Shepherd Parkway. A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Peachtree Presbyterian Church at 3434 Roswell Road. 
  • President Donald Trump's intensifying legal troubles are unnerving some of his fellow Republicans. Despite his brash stance, they believe the turmoil has left him increasingly vulnerable as he gears up for what is sure to be a nasty fight for re-election. Trump, ever confident of his ability to bend story lines to his will, mocks the investigations into his conduct as candidate and president as a 'witch hunt' and insists he will survive the threats. But a shift began to unfold over the weekend after prosecutors in New York for the first time linked Trump to a federal crime of illegal hush payments. That left some of his associates fearful that his customary bravado is unwarranted. For some Republicans, the implication that the president may have directed a campaign finance violation, which would be a felony, could foreshadow a true turning point in the Republican relationship with him when special counsel Robert Mueller releases his report on the Russia investigation. 'I'm sure there's going to be a lot more that's going to come out from the Southern District (of New York) and from, at some point, from the Mueller investigation as well,' Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber's incoming No. 2 Republican, said Monday. 'What they're implying there, obviously, is something I assume at some point the president will have an opportunity to respond to.' Thune continued: 'Campaign finance violations are something that ... they are serious matters, but obviously it depends a little bit on how it gets treated.' As the legal drama plays out, political challenges that could threaten Trump's re-election are piling up. Republicans are still coming to terms with their drubbing in last month's House elections and looking for someone to blame. The departure of John Kelly as White House chief of staff has set off a disorganized search for a replacement who could stay in the job through the 2020 campaign. After Trump's top choice, the vice president's chief of staff Nick Ayers, passed on the job, few of the remaining candidates have political experience. Also, Democrats will soon take control of the House of Representatives, wielding subpoena power and potentially exploring impeachment proceedings. Meanwhile, financial markets have been jittery, in part because of Trump's trade wars and concerns that higher borrowing costs could ultimately trigger a recession. Facing pressure from Mueller and an impending onslaught of Democratic investigations, Trump could hew even further to the right, catering exclusively to the base of voters he is concerned about losing, according to a Republican close to the White House who has consulted on the early re-election efforts. That instinct would echo the president's double-down, scorched-earth response to the crises that hit his 2016 campaign, including the Access Hollywood tape about forcing himself on women, and could make it harder to woo the independent voters or disaffected Democrats he may well need. Could Trump face a primary election challenge from within his own party? He doesn't seem concerned. The president is eager to unleash his re-election machinery and begin to collect pledges of loyalty from across the GOP to quell any hint of an insurrection, according to a campaign official and a Republican familiar with the inner workings of the campaign but not authorized to speak publicly. The Trump team has discussed the possibility of a challenge from someone such as outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. A week after the midterm elections, Kasich traveled to New Hampshire for a public speech and private meetings with prominent Republicans. Flake, who has tangled repeatedly with Trump, isn't making any personal commitment, but his feelings about a challenger are clear. 'Somebody needs to run' against Trump, he said Monday. 'I hope somebody does.' While some Democrats eying the White House are expected to announce campaigns in the first few weeks of 2019, a Republican challenger could move more slowly, according to two GOP operatives who have been involved in hypothetical discussions about taking on Trump. Waiting until early spring, for example, could give Republicans time to assess whether Trump will be weakened by Mueller's investigation or a downturn in the economy. One leading House Republican said the situation surrounding Trump remains volatile and has urged colleagues to wait for the Mueller report, which some believe could emerge early next year. That Republican, who demanded anonymity to assess the situation candidly, has urged fellow GOP lawmakers to not defend the indefensible but to also not believe every charge. The lawmaker expressed hope that the special counsel's findings come out sooner rather than later so there will be more time before the 2020 elections. For all the private and not-so-private party worries, many close to Trump predict he not only will survive the Russia investigation but will be re-elected in two years. They point to his remarkable ability to shake off scandal, the sway he continues to hold over his base of GOP voters, the fear his Twitter account has instilled among many Republican elected officials and what they believe is the lack of top-shelf talent among Democrats who could face him in 2020. Echoing the president, they contend the special counsel has come up empty-handed in his efforts to prove Russian collusion and is ready to settle for a campaign finance charge they believe is minor and will be ignored or not understood by most voters. The president has said the lesson of the 2018 midterms is that Republican candidates abandon him at their own peril. And the Republicans who remain in Congress after that election aren't likely to back away from him. 'Remember that the Republicans who are left have won in fairly solid Republican, Trump districts,' said moderate Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who is retiring. 'So he is very popular with the base. I would not think that they would want to distance themselves or have any fear of associating with him.' ___ Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Fram at http://twitter.com/@asfram
  • Officials from Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana are still figuring out how much damage an agitated naked man caused Sunday to its Dayton residential re-entry facility. >> Read more trending news   The naked man, who police haven’t identified, spent more than four hours on the roof of the organization’s Gettysburg Avenue facility after he disrobed and burned his clothing, officials said. The man, who was a resident at the center, also stabbed himself several times with a sharp object and wrote “Pig for Life” in his own blood on a wall, witnesses and police said. The man is expected to face criminal charges, possibly including felony vandalism after he damaged multiple cameras, windows and other equipment, police said. “This certainly was an unusual and very out-of-the-ordinary Sunday afternoon for us,” said Nicole Knowlton, vice president of communications for Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana. At about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, staff at the Volunteers of America called police after a resident climbed a chain-link fence and managed to get onto the roof of the facility, located at 1931 S. Gettysburg Ave. The facility provides programming and treatment to help ex-offenders integrate back into the community, Knowlton said. The organization has four half-way houses in the state, including the Gettysburg facility, which can hold about 120 people. >> Related: Naked man on top of Dayton building causes disturbance for more than 4 hours The man shed and then burned his clothing, police said. He jumped from rooftop to rooftop while naked. He stabbed himself with a sharp object and smeared blood on the top of the one-story building, officials said. Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana locked down the facility and restricted where clients could go for their safety, Knowlton said. The man broke two security cameras, six windows, some wiring and the fans of the heating and cooling units, Knowlton said. Officers lined up mattresses on the sidewalk below the roof to try to cushion a potential fall. Authorities used a ladder truck to eventually retrieve the man. Knowlton said she believes he remains in the hospital.
  • A polygamous group based on the Utah-Arizona border is letting go of the sprawling building where its members worshipped, in the latest sign that the sect run by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs is crumbling and losing control of the community it ruled for a century. The group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, now has nowhere to gather for worship services after the nearly 53,000 square-foot (4,900 square-meter) building was taken over last week as part of government-ordered evictions that have taken away about 200 homes and buildings from members who refuse to pay property taxes and $100-a-month occupancy fees. The meetinghouse with capacity for several thousand people is valued at $2.8 million and sits on about 7 acres (2.8 hectares) in the remote red rock community, on the Arizona side of the border. The building has a stage, a church-like setup for services and classrooms for religious education but has not been used for at least six months, Jeff Barlow said Monday. He is the executive director of a government-appointed organization that oversees a former church trust that has properties in the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The FLDS doesn't have a spokesperson to comment about the development. The sect is experiencing a major leadership void with Warren Jeffs serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides and his brother Lyle Jeffs serving nearly a five-year sentence for his role in carrying out an elaborate food stamp fraud scheme and for escaping home confinement while awaiting trial. Members have said they have been worshipping at home on their own. The lack of local leaders meant nobody stepped up to take responsibility for the building when Barlow's organization warned an eviction was imminent, said Christine Katas, who lives in the community and serves as an intermediary between Barlow's organization and the FLDS. Rank-and-file members don't believe they have the authority to do so, she said. 'It's very sad for the FLDS. I've seen people cry over it,' Katas said. 'Both sides are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Everybody wishes there was a different outcome.' The evictions have led many FLDS members to take refuge in trailers around town or move away, while former members have purchased the homes and buildings and moved back. Group members don't believe they should have to pay for what belonged to a communal church trust that the state of Utah took over more than a decade ago amid mismanagement. The evictions are part of the shifting demographics in the sister cities of about 7,700 people. Non-sect members last year won control of the mayor's office and town council in Hildale, Utah and nearly did the same in municipal elections in Colorado City. The town government and police are being watched closely by court-appointed monitors after a jury found past town and police leaders guilty of civil rights violations. Sprawling homes that used to belong to Warren Jeffs have been converted into beds and breakfast and sober living centers. Members of the group still consider their leader and prophet to be Warren Jeffs, even though he has been in jail in Utah or Texas continually since 2006. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it. The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the eviction of the meetinghouse. Barlow said the board of the organization he runs, called the United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust, will meet on Jan. 5 in a public meeting to discuss what to do with the building, constructed in 1986, Barlow said. One possibility is converting it to a civic center, though that would likely require seeking grant funds, he said. The UEP board will make the final decision.