Drought hangs on, colder this weekend

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Over an inch of rain fell last Monday and Tuesday, but that was not enough to break the drought in Pearl River County. This week will remain dry except for a chance of showers Friday night or Saturday morning.

Combined rainfall totals for Monday and Tuesday ranged from 1.55 inches at Mississippi State University’s Poplarville Experiment Station to slightly lesser amounts around one and one-quarter inches at several rain gauge stations in the southern half of the county. This was the most rain that we have experienced in the county since mid-September.

That was still not enough to get us out of the moderate drought category in the weekly Drought Monitor analysis released last Thursday from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

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Much worse drought conditions, described as extreme and even exceptional by the Drought Monitor, extend across portions of the southeastern United States. The drought, along with extremely low relative humidity last week across parts of Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas, contributed to the spread of an unusual number of wildfires in those states.

On Sunday forty-two uncontained large area fires were burning across the South according to the Southern Area Coordinating Center for Wildfires.

Most of the blazes were in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. The SACC, located in Atlanta, estimated that 74,381 acres were involved in these fires.

Smoke from the fires spread across thousands of square miles prompting forecasters to issue air quality alerts in cities such as Asheville and Charlotte in North Carolina. Satellite images showed the smoke drifting west and south as far as northern Alabama.

Sadly, several of the worst fires are suspected to have been set by arsonists.

The fires in the Southeast are a reminder of how destructive and dangerous wildfires can be. In Pearl River County, and across most of Mississippi, we remain under a burn ban. The latest burn ban information is posted by the Mississippi Forestry Commission at http://www.mfc.ms.gov/burn-bans.

We will remain under a high-pressure system through Friday. Skies will be mostly fair with an increase in clouds on Thursday and Friday. Highs will be in the upper 70s and lows in the 50s.

On Friday a cold front is forecast to move eastward out of the Central Plains.

As the front nears us on Friday night and Saturday it may kick off some showers. Even if it does, they won’t be very heavy. The better chance of significant rain will be far to our north in the Corn Belt states of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, which will be much closer to the strong low-pressure center at the northern end of the cold front.

After the cold front moves to our east on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, expect sharply colder air to filter into the Gulf South. Lows on Sunday and Monday morning may break into the 30s for the first time this fall. Highs on both days are currently forecast to climb only into the lower 60s.

By Skip Rigney