Hot start to July, unsettled Gulf possible

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2019

By Skip Rigney

July is always hot, but this year is off to an especially blistering start with high temperatures in the middle to upper 90s. The average daily high temperature in early July based on historical data in Pearl River County is 91 to 92 degrees.

July, along with August, has the most unchanging weather of the year here in the Gulf South. There is no warming or cooling trend from the beginning of July to the end, and usually there is not much variation in temperatures from day to day. The historical average daily highs and lows for our county for every day of July are within about a degree of 91 and 73.

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Much more variation is possible with rainfall in July. We can have a drought, such as in 1924, when Poplarville received less than one inch of rain the entire month. At the other extreme, tropical systems can soak the area,  as in July 2003 when Tropical Storm Bill helped bring total rainfall that month of 15.43 inches in Poplarville.

Even without organized tropical systems, an average of one out of every three July days has afternoon showers or thunderstorms, helping make July, on average, our wettest month with monthly average rainfall totals between 6 and 7 inches across the county.

Although it’s not until August that we enter the heart of the hurricane season, tropical systems can still cause us headaches in July. We were on the wet side of Tropical Storm Bill on June 30 and July 1, 2003, and our county received 5 to 8 inches of rain over two days.

Tropical Storm Cindy came ashore near Waveland on July 6, 2005 dumping 3 to 5 inches in Pearl River County.

Hurricane Bob passed just to our west in July 1979, but still managed to produce 64 mile per hour wind gusts in Bay St. Louis. We dodged a bullet in July 1997 when Hurricane Debby moved 50 miles south of Gulfport, then inland near Dauphin Island. Debby produced historic rainfalls of 30 to 40 inches in south Alabama.

A major hurricane made landfall near Pascagoula on July 5, 1916. Here in Pearl River County we were on the weaker, western side of the storm. Areas near and just to the east of landfall took a pounding with winds over 100 miles per hour in Mobile and Pensacola. This hurricane caused Mobile’s highest storm surge on record at 11.6 feet.

There could be some tropical action in the eastern Gulf in the upcoming week. A weak frontal boundary, along with a barely discernible cyclonic circulation, will slide south out of Georgia and into the northeast Gulf by midweek. As the front and the weak upper swirl interact, the first Gulf tropical depression or storm of the season could form.

Even if a Gulf system does form, it is much too early to know where it would head.

As usual with tropical systems along the northern Gulf Coast, those to the east of the storm’s center get most of the rain, while those more than 50 or so miles to the west of the center can actually see less than the usual number of daytime summer showers.