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Wrapping up 2019’s weather statistics

By Skip Rigney

The United States had its second wettest year on record in 2019 according to a report released on Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Much of that surplus precipitation flowed into the Mississippi River causing some of the worst flooding since 1993 in many locations in the River’s flood plain.
The state of Mississippi was particularly hard hit. Hundreds of square miles in the Delta in the northwest part of the state remained under water for weeks last spring and summer. The seafood and tourism industries on the Mississippi Gulf Coast suffered losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars due to an influx of freshwater into Mississippi Sound caused by the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Louisiana for an unprecedented 118 days.
Although 2019 was a very wet year when you average all the rain gauges across the entire United States, there was, as is almost always the case, an incredible amount of variation at the local level.
Even across Pearl River County, the variability was striking. Heavy rains in May and October helped push the 2019 rainfall totals over the 70 inch mark at many locations in the northern half of the county, above the historical annual average for our county of 60 to 65 inches.
In contrast, Picayune, Carriere, and other spots in the southern part of the county received considerably less, with totals close to the 60 inch mark. And, even though that’s very close to the long-term average, 2019 was the driest year at those sites since 2011. It was especially dry for 50 days from late August to mid-October when less than 1.5 inches of rain fell.
As for temperatures, most of the southeastern U.S. had a much warmer-than-average 2019. North Carolina and Georgia had their warmest years on record.
Temperatures in south Mississippi and southeast Louisiana weren’t that extreme, but did generally align with the regional trend of warmer-than-normal for the year. The one local exception was the Poplarville Experiment Station, where 2019’s average temperature of 67 degrees for the entire year was within one-half degree of the historical annual average. The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season was busier than normal and included two Category 5 storms, Dorian and Lorenzo. Fortunately for us in Pearl River County, 2019 extended our streak of hurricane-free years to 14 since Katrina.
The only tropical mischief of note came in October, when the remnants of Tropical Storm Olga surprised forecasters by bringing 50-60 mile per hour winds to our county, the strongest we’ve seen in several years.
Stepping forward from 2019 into the middle-third of January 2020, it looks like we’re in line for a rather dreary and showery week. There’s a risk of severe thunderstorms this morning. If you read this Saturday afternoon or evening, the squall line will have already passed through and a cooler, drier, more stable air mass will be building into our region.
However, expect the cool front that passes us on Saturday to stall in the northern Gulf and then head back our way as a warm front by Sunday night. That will be the first of several disturbances that will keep us mostly cloudy with a chance of showers for much of the upcoming work week.