This week in local weather history

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The weather was rocking and rolling last Thursday night as a strong line of thunderstorms moved through Pearl River County. Since then, quiet conditions have prevailed, and the outlook for the rest of the week is for continued uneventful weather.

After a low tonight in the lower 60s, temperatures are forecast to range from the upper 80s in the afternoons to the upper 60s in the early morning hours. There’s a slight chance that a few afternoon showers may break out later in the week, but it’s more likely that most of us will stay dry.

The last week in May is usually pretty quiet in south Mississippi. The clash of warm and cold air masses often associated with spring’s severe thunderstorms typically has moved further north. Historically, the highest chances for tornadoes during late May is across the tornado alley of the plains of Oklahoma and Kansas.

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Usually the domes of hot air and high pressure that cause the searing summer days of June and July are not yet in place.

That’s not to say that the last week in May is always quiet and pleasant along the Gulf Coast.

Four years ago in 2012 we were suffering a sweltering early summer heat wave. Gulfport set temperature records for five days in a row in 2012 on May 26th through May 30th with highs of 94, 97, 95, 96, and 93 degrees. The maximum of 97 degrees on May 27, 2012 is the hottest temperature this century for the month of May at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

During the same heat wave, the thermometer at New Orleans’ Audubon Park hit a record 96 degrees on May 29, 2012. Records at Audubon Park go all the way back to 1893.

The cause of the hot weather was that subtropical storm “Beryl” off the coast of Georgia was helping build up a ridge of high pressure over this area. Sinking, warming air underneath the high-pressure ridge caused our temperatures to soar, making the last week of May 2012 an unusually hot one.

During the last week of May in 2005 our big weather news was rain. A front was stalled to our north and an upper low over Texas was pumping extremely moist air north out of the Gulf. A large area of rain with embedded thunderstorms moved over us on Sunday afternoon May 29th. It kept raining for most of the next 18 hours. Picayune ended up getting 3.80 inches of rain. Slidell received 5.83 inches.

Back in late May 1959 wet weather came courtesy of a pre-season tropical storm. Arlene made landfall just east of Lafayette, Louisiana, on May 30th then curved northeastward over Mississippi. According to an Associated Press story at the time, nearly 11 inches of rain fell at Moisant Field, which we now know as New Orleans International Airport. Flooding at the air traffic control tower forced occupants to move to a new tower then under construction.

The heaviest rainfall associated with the cyclone actually occurred over southeast Mississippi when 13.55 inches of rain fell on the small community of Merrill about 30 miles east of Wiggins.

Thankfully, unlike those unusual years with late May heat waves and heavy rains, the weather this week probably won’t be a topic of many conversations.

By Skip Rigney