Late fall brings return of severe storm potential

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2016

While most of us prefer sunny days to cloudy ones, there is more diversity of opinion when it comes to temperatures. Some prefer the heat of summer, although I confess that I don’t understand why.

For others, such as myself, the chilly nights, cool mornings and evenings, and mild afternoons of autumn are more to our liking. For us, it doesn’t get much better than the past couple of weeks. Afternoon highs have been in the 60s and 70s, and the abundant sunshine has simply reinforced why fall is my favorite season.

However, a transition to a wetter pattern is underway. That doesn’t mean that it will be cloudy and rainy everyday, but we can expect to see less sunshine and more clouds and rain over the next couple of weeks than we have seen during most of the last two months.

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One aspect of this pattern change is that the tracks of low-pressure systems will shift southward. This means that the chance of severe thunderstorms will be increasing in the Gulf South, which is typical for late fall and early winter.

As I write this on Monday morning, forecasters are predicting that a line of strong thunderstorms will move through our area Monday night.

These thundershowers will be associated with an energetic upper level disturbance ahead of a surface cold front.

Even as you read this on Tuesday, the main cold front will still be to our west in Louisiana. Another surge of energy in the upper levels of the atmosphere Tuesday night and Wednesday morning will bring another round of showers and thunderstorms, some possibly severe, as it finally pushes the cold front through south Mississippi.

Even those of us who have been enjoying the dry, sunny weather over the past couple of months can appreciate the fact that local vegetation needs rain. Last Thursday, for the first time since Pearl River County was added to the drought area by the U.S. Drought Monitor in late October, our area was placed in the Severe Drought category. An inch or two through Wednesday morning will begin to chip away at the drought.

For our neighbors in central and north Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, who are experiencing even more extreme drought conditions, this week’s rains will be even more welcome. Those hard-hit regions will likely see two to four inches this week, which will be more rain than they have received in months.

After the cold front passes us on Wednesday high temperatures will fall back from Monday’s and today’s upper 70s to more seasonable 60s for the foreseeable future. Lows Wednesday night through Saturday night will be chilly ranging from the middle 30s to 40s.

The shift to a pattern with west and southwest upper winds will allow more disturbances to move from the Pacific into the Gulf South.

This upper flow will spark the development of low pressure in the northwest Gulf resulting in a return of clouds and rain at some point during the weekend and into early next week.

By Skip Rigney