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Looking back on last year’s weather

By Skip Rigney

The new year is well underway, but before we leave 2018 entirely, let’s look back at last year’s weather.

Examining the overall statistics for the year is a good way to begin, because it provides the big picture and a basis for comparing 2018 to other years.

The long-term average annual rainfall in Pearl River County based on historical data is about 62 inches. Approximately half of all years we have rainfall between 54 and 70 inches.

The year 2018 was definitely wetter-than-average across the county, but still within the fairly typical range. Mississippi State University’s Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES) in Poplarville measured 69.55 inches. A  rainfall observer six miles east-northeast of Picayune reported a total of 71.18 inches through the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. 

As usual October was our driest month with both of these stations receiving just over three inches of rain. February, July, November, and December were all wetter-than-normal, with both the Poplarville and Picayune stations observing two to three inches of rain above the monthly averages. April was several inches wetter-than-average in the southern part of the county.

Taken as a whole, temperatures in Pearl River County in 2018 averaged very close to normal. That doesn’t mean, however, that there weren’t some stretches of unseasonable cold and warmth.

February was the oddest month temperature-wise in 2018. Poplarville set five new high temperature records, all of them in the low 80s. February’s average temperature for the month was about ten degrees warmer than the historical average.

As is often the case, thunderstorms provided the most noteworthy weather events. A squall line brought severe thunderstorms to much of Louisiana and Mississippi on Saturday, April 14th. Damage to trees and a few buildings occurred near McNeil and Carriere.

On June 9th high winds associated with downdrafts from a summer thunderstorm snapped and uprooted trees and lifted the roof off a barn in Ceasar.

The 2018 hurricane season was uneventful for us, but there were two close calls. In early September Tropical Storm Gordon moved through the Gulf of Mexico and eventually made landfall near Pascagoula. All of the rough weather was near and east of the point of landfall.

In October Hurricane Michael posed a much more serious threat to the northern Gulf Coast. Fortunately for us, autumn’s first strong cold front moved from Texas through Louisiana and then Mississippi just ahead of Michael. Our good fortune meant disaster for folks in the Florida Panhandle from Panama City to Apalachicola and inland into Georgia. Michael’s maximum sustained winds are estimated to have been 155 miles per hour. Only three hurricanes have hit the U.S. with stronger winds.

This article would not have been possible without the daily weather observations made by the good folks at the MAFES in Poplarville. Also crucial were the data, analyses, and online tools made available at www.sercc.com by the Southeast Regional Climate Center (SERCC) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. SERCC and five other regional climate centers around the country are federally funded and managed through NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information. No data have been available from NCEI since the federal government shutdown began in December.

SERCC is operating on funds they received before the shutdown began, and therefore is able to continue to run uninterrupted during the shutdown.