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Sunshine, cooler temperatures return

By Skip Rigney

Sunshine has finally returned to south Mississippi after eight days of gloomy, gray skies and dreary dampness.

Persistent southwest winds in the upper atmosphere kept pumping moisture and disturbances over us from just after Christmas right into the New Year. Yesterday, Friday, a low pressure system in the upper atmosphere passed above us and moved east of us causing the high altitude winds to finally shift to a drier, more northwesterly direction.

The changes several miles above us helped push a surface low pressure system and cold front across the Gulf South, starting in Texas, then moving eastward through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Today, that cold front has raced far to our east off the Atlantic Coast. In its wake is a dome of surface high pressure and a seasonably cool, dry air mass.

The average low temperatures in Pearl River County in early January computed from historical data are near 40 degrees, and we will be close to or just below that mark this weekend. Our average, also called “normal,” high temperatures are in the lower 60s, which matches our forecast highs for today. We will be a little warmer-than-normal Sunday, and even warmer on Monday and Tuesday as the high pressure system slides to our east, and our winds shift to the south bringing in more warmth and moisture from the Gulf.

Sunday should still be fairly sunny. But, by Monday the southerly winds at the surface and a return of more southwesterly winds aloft will bring enough humidity back to the area that forecasters are predicting a return of some clouds.

Predictions from computer weather models show the next cold front moving out of the Great Plains into the Gulf South on Monday night or Tuesday. Fortunately, those models also show that showers with this next front should be widely scattered and not very heavy.

That’s a good thing, because we definitely need a few days to dry out. Rainfall on Thursday and Thursday night totaled 1 to 1.5 inches across Pearl River County. That means that since December 27th, locations in the county have received between four and eight inches of rain.

The lack of sunshine over the last week means that there hasn’t been much evaporation of water from the soggy ground.  Soil moisture is running 80 to 90 percent above normal in south Mississippi according to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Climate Prediction Center.

That means that much of the rain that fell on our saturated ground on Thursday night ran off into area rivers, creeks, and branches, keeping those streams above normal levels.

Hydrologists with the NWS in Slidell predict that both the East and West Hobolochitto Creeks will peak today and then fall below flood stage later today or Sunday.

The Pearl River basin to our north has received even more rainfall than we have in Pearl River County. The NWS predicts that the Pearl River will continue to rise for several more days and remain in a moderate flood stage for most of the coming week.