Epic storm to our west, but quiet here

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 16, 2019

By Skip Rigney

Although our weather this past week was relatively quiet, a meteorological event of historic proportions was unfolding over the southern Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. Two troughs of low pressure in the jet stream, one diving south from Canada, the other racing east from the Pacific, combined with unusual intensity and just the right timing over the southwestern United States. The result this past Wednesday was a storm of epic proportions.

Record low atmospheric pressure readings for the month of March were set at many stations throughout the Great Plains.

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Meteorologists are still verifying whether the 970 millibar observed at Lamar, Colorado, is a new all-time record low pressure for the state of Colorado. That’s a pressure reading more often found in Category 2 hurricanes than in Colorado.

The Great Plains are known for being windy. But, the enormous difference in pressure between the center of this week’s intense cyclone and the surrounding areas of high pressure sent the air screaming across the plains at speeds that surprised even long-time residents.

Winds in eight states howled for hours between 40 and 60 miles per hour, and many locations recorded gusts above hurricane force. According to the National Weather Service, Pine Springs near the foot of the Guadalupe Mountains in west Texas had a wind gust to 103 miles per hour. Videos were posted on social media showing tractor trailer rigs being blown over on a highway in the Texas Panhandle. Twenty-six rail cars were blown off a train trestle in northern New Mexico.

In the warm air sector of the low pressure system’s circulation, tornadoes formed in southeastern New Mexico.

Meanwhile in the cold air sector of the storm, nearly four feet of snow fell in the mountains of south-central Colorado.

As the storm moved northeast, blizzard conditions spread from Colorado to Wyoming, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

Quite a contrast with the mild weather we had for most of the week. High temperatures throughout most of the southern parts of Mississippi and Louisiana were in the 70s or higher from Saturday through Thursday.  The temperature at the Poplarville Experiment Station broke into the 80s last Sunday for the first time since October 31, 2018.

However, Friday morning a cool front passed through. Now we’re immersed in a cooler air mass that covers most of the United States. Reinforcing surges of relatively cool, dry air are predicted to sweep southward into our area on Monday and Wednesday.

That’s going to make for cool nights from now through the coming workweek, with low temperatures in the 40s.

Afternoon high temperatures are forecast to start in the low 60s this weekend, but slowly climb into the upper 60s and then lower 70s as the week progresses.

There may be a few lingering showers today, but no rain is expected Sunday through Thursday as the air that will be flowing into our area will have a much lower humidity than the air this past week. Our winds will remain mostly from a northerly direction until Friday.

Then as the surface winds veer to a more southerly direction expect a return of muggy air from over the Gulf of Mexico for next weekend.