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Remembering last decade’s winter weather

By Skip Rigney

Forecasters expect fairly uneventful weather during the upcoming week as we close out January 2020.
That isn’t always the case during January, a month that has provided us with some memorable cold and icy events. That fact was highlighted by the National Weather Service (NWS) Slidell office in a report released last month detailing the top weather events that affected our region during the last decade. The three major winter weather events recognized in the 2010-2019 retrospective occurred in January.
In early January 2010 the jet stream curved southward over the eastern U.S. and stayed there for the next two weeks pushing a series of frigid, Arctic surface high pressure systems down into the central and eastern United States. Every night for nearly two weeks between January 2-14, 2010, the mercury fell below freezing in Poplarville. A particularly bitter cold air mass settled over the Deep South on January 8th when the daytime high only reached 31 in Poplarville and the low that night dipped to 14 degrees.
However, less than two weeks later temperatures soared into the middle 70s, providing yet another example of our winter weather roller coaster.
Winter precipitation made its first appearance during the 2010-2019 decade during late January 2014. A piece of the so-called “polar vortex” broke off, sending a huge, cold low pressure swirl southward where it sat spinning 20,000 feet above Hudson Bay, Canada. The north winds on its western side blew cold air down from the frozen Arctic Ocean and northern Canada into the central and eastern United States.
After the cold front passed us on January 27, 2014, as often happens in winter, it stalled in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile a low pressure system was streaking northeastward out of Mexico throwing moisture back northward aloft over the cold air sitting over us. The result was sleet, freezing rain, and a few snowflakes on January 28, 2014, from Houston eastward to the Florida Panhandle, including Pearl River County. As messy as the situation was in our area, resulting in many bridge and road closures, the effect further north was horrific. From Birmingham to Atlanta, snow and ice marooned hundreds of thousands of motorists in their cars for hours, some overnight. Thousands of students in Georgia spent the night at school stranded as buses were unable to negotiate the icy roads.
The third major winter weather event of the decade highlighted in the NWS Slidell report occurred two winters ago. On the afternoon of January 16, 2018 a Gulf low pressure system spread moisture over a cold air mass entrenched along the northern Gulf Coast. Large stretches of I-10 and I-12 were closed. Snow and sleet accumulations of one to two inches were common in the northern part of Pearl River County, tapering off to less than one-half inch of ice in the south.
Fortunately, snowbirds in the southern part of the county had already gotten their fix earlier that winter on December 8, 2017. Although not included in the NWS’s list, that snowfall was the most significant of the decade for our county with totals ranging from one to four inches.
Local snow lovers, however, will have to wait until February this winter to have any chance of seeing the white stuff.