Local weather giving us plenty to talk about

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Paraphrasing an old saying, even if we can’t do anything about the weather, it gives us plenty to talk about. That’s certainly been true in our area over the past few weeks.
On February 23rd, an unusually strong outbreak of severe thunderstorms swept across the Gulf South. Two tornadoes touched down in Pearl River County.
The winter of 2015-2016 ended six days later on February 29th. That’s because, for recordkeeping purposes, climatologists define winter as the months of December, January, and February.
According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the winter of 2015-2016 was slightly warmer and wetter than average for us here in the six southernmost counties of Mississippi. That’s very typical for years in which the tropical Pacific Ocean is in the midst of the strong sea surface temperature-warming event known as El Nino.
Last week torrential rains brought floods across large swaths of Louisiana and Mississippi. The major cause was an unusually strong and slow moving low-pressure system in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere. The low stayed unusually far south as it moved across northern Mexico before turning north into Texas.
Last Thursday night and Friday the system dumped heavy rains across the Northshore parishes of Louisiana and into much of southern Mississippi.
Three to four inches of rain fell in the southern half of the county, but amounts increased as you headed north.
The northwest part of the county along with our neighbors in Lamar County and Washington, Tangipahoa, and parts of St. Tammany Parishes were the unfortunate recipients of ten to fifteen inches of rain resulting in extensive flooding.
Most creeks and rivers have returned to near normal.
But, during the last few days, the lower Pearl River has reached levels not seen since the great 1983 flood. Although the river has crested, major flooding will continue along the Pearl River south of Picayune for most of this week.
Forecasters are closely monitoring a cool front that will be approaching our area on Wednesday. There’s a chance that it will stall and kick up scattered showers Thursday through Saturday. Fortunately, it looks like one to two inches would be the most rainfall from this system.
One thing is obvious when you walk outside these days: spring is in full swing. Shrubs and trees are budding, blossoming, and beginning to leaf out. Late winter weeds are in their full glory, even in well-manicured yards. And there is pollen aplenty as demonstrated by the coating of yellow dust on automobiles and trucks.
One or more spring cold snaps is very common for March or April. But, if there are to be any this year, they’re not yet in sight.
Temperatures this week will feel very spring-like. We saw our warmest temperatures since last autumn on Monday afternoon when most locations exceeded 80 degrees.
The story will be similar today before highs drop back into the 70s Wednesday and Thursday.
Temperatures for Friday through the weekend will depend on whether or not this week’s cool front makes it through the region or stalls.
Regardless, the air mass behind the front is rather mild, so don’t expect a drastic cool down even if the front makes it into the Gulf.

By Skip Rigney

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