Tropical moisture feeds wet pattern

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 8, 2018

By Skip Rigney

Expect more late summer humidity and scattered showers in the upcoming week as we remain stuck in onshore flow from the Gulf of Mexico.

A cool front will come tantalizingly close over the next few days, but forecasters predict it will stall out once it gets into north or central Mississippi.

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The instability associated with the nearby front will enhance our rain chances. It appears we will have at least a 50/50 chance of rain both Monday and Tuesday, and a few showers will be around every day.

Last week Tropical Storm Gordon caused a lot of conversation and even some pre-storm preparations in Pearl River County.

Gordon formed from a strong tropical wave in the Bahamas. The cyclone was named as it approached the Florida Keys, then took aim at the northern Gulf Coast.

Fortunately, despite very warm water in the Gulf of Mexico, several factors kept Gordon from ever attaining hurricane status. Relatively high pressures in the Gulf of Mexico and wind shear at higher altitudes kept the surface circulation quite small.

Almost all of the stormy weather remained very near and to the east of the storm’s center, which made landfall Tuesday night at about 10:15 PM just east of Pascagoula near the Mississippi-Alabama state line. Gordon’s maximum sustained winds at the time were 70 miles per hour. The Pascagoula airport reported peak sustained winds of 38 mph with a gust to 56 mph at about the time of landfall.

Fort Morgan, Alabama, which is on a spit of land a couple of miles across Pelican Bay from Dauphin Island, reported sustained winds continuously above 40 mph for nearly five hours Tuesday evening.

The highest winds recorded at Fort Morgan were 68 mph sustained gusting to 78 mph.

Meanwhile, about 100 miles as the crow flies west of Fort Morgan, at my house near Picayune,  our winds were about 5 mph, which is a testament to how small and lopsided Gordon was.

Sadly, Gordon caused the death of a baby in Pensacola, Florida.

The Associated Press reported that the child was killed when Gordon’s winds blew a large tree limb onto a mobile home.

This is a somber reminder that residents of mobile homes should evacuate to a sturdier building for both tropical storms and hurricanes.

The national news and social media are already buzzing about Hurricane Florence as it heads westward across the Atlantic Ocean.

Florence is too far north to threaten the Gulf of Mexico, but forecasters, and the computer models that they use, are still uncertain about when the hurricane will begin to recurve to the north.

The timing and sharpness of the curve will mean the difference between a major hurricane landfall on the East Coast and a soon-to-be-forgotten hurricane that only affects ships in the Atlantic Ocean.

Further back to the east in the tropical Atlantic, two new tropical storms are in the process of forming.

By the time you read this on Saturday, the National Hurricane Center probably will already have named Helene, and Isaac is not far behind. It is still much too early to have any idea whether either system will pose a threat to the Gulf of Mexico.

Keep that in mind when the social media weather hypochondriacs start posting ominous long-range computer model runs on Twitter and Facebook.