Strong winds impact annual 4-H shooting event

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 2, 2017

By Skip Rigney

When people check the weather forecast, they usually want to know whether to expect rain and how hot or cold it is going to be. Unless you have a boating or fishing trip, you probably don’t pay much attention to the wind forecast.

Saturday was one of those rare days when the winds were strong enough to affect everyday activities.

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My son and a number of other youngsters experienced the effect of those winds as they participated in the annual 4-H Mississippi Southeast District Shooting Sports competition.

Before delving into the impact of the wind, allow me a few words about this worthwhile local youth program.

Every year from January through July, county 4-H offices across the United States sponsor youth shooting sports programs. According to the Mississippi State University Extension Service website, over 300,000 youth participate in 4-H shooting sports nationally.

Youth in our area have the opportunity to join the Pearl River County 4-H Hotshots, which is the local 4-H shooting sports program sponsored and managed by the Mississippi State Extension Service Office in Poplarville.

At weekly practices during the late winter and spring, those youth learn firearm safety and hone their skills in shooting disciplines such as archery, shotgun skeet shooting, and rifle and pistol marksmanship.

On the last Saturday in April, members of the Hotshots gather with other 4-H shooting sports teams, coaches, family, and friends from counties across the 4-H Southeast Mississippi District, which extends from the Gulf Coast northward all the way to Meridian.

The competition is held at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks’ McHenry Shooting Range in Stone County. Competitors at Saturday’s event soon discovered that wind was going to be a factor.

Paper targets for rifle and pistol shooters were stapled onto sheets of cardboard attached to portable wooden stands. As the stands shimmied, shook, and swayed in 20 mile per hour winds gusting to 30 mph, aligning the sights with the small bullseyes became a greater than usual challenge for the young shooters.

The organizers of the event wisely had placed sandbags on the bases of the portable stands. But, even those precautions were not enough to prevent several delays in the action when wind gusts blew down the stands. 

Shotgun shooters had a different challenge. As the targets were launched from the skeet throwing machines, the wind would often change the speed and direction of the flying clays in unexpected ways.

Impressively, one of Pearl River County’s Hotshot shooters made the necessary adjustments and achieved one of only two perfect skeet scores for the day.

Saturday’s winds were the result of the large difference in air pressure between a low over Texas and high pressure centered over the Atlantic Ocean. Air naturally flows from higher to lower pressure, although it is also pushed to the right by the Earth’s rotation. The larger the pressure difference, the stronger the wind.

Sunday, the Texas low-pressure center moved northeast through the Great Lakes, and its trailing cold front passed through our area with a line of thunderstorms.

Another low is already forming in Texas and will cause breezy conditions on Wednesday and Thursday.

The low and associated fronts will bring a chance of showers and thunderstorms as early as Wednesday afternoon, but especially Wednesday night. Expect cooler, drier air behind the front.