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A taste of fall as another Gulf storm develops

By Skip Rigney

We haven’t said goodbye to summer for good, but at least we’re getting to say hello to fall. The first significantly cooler and less humid air of the season began filtering into south Mississippi yesterday. This air mass is predicted to stick around for at least the next several days. Meanwhile, forecasters remain uncertain of the future movements of a tropical cyclone currently meandering in the southwestern Gulf.
Our preview of fall began this past Wednesday afternoon. Hurricane Sally, which had by that time weakened to tropical storm strength, was moving into western Alabama. The counterclockwise circulation around the low pressure system gave us a brisk northerly breeze, pulling in some less muggy, slightly cooler air. A reinforcing shot of air from the north on Friday ushered in an even more significant change. Some of the air we’re breathing this weekend was over the Great Lakes just a few days ago.
We should start the next several days in the lower to middle 60s. Daytime temperatures will be mostly in the 70s, with afternoon highs topping out in the low 80s at the most.
The front marking the boundary with warm, humid air is not very far down in the Gulf. Moisture being pumped into the higher altitudes, by what has probably by now been named Tropical Storm Alpha in the southwest Gulf, will be streaming above us. Those two ingredients means mostly cloudy skies and a slight chance of rain.
Yes, we’ve run out of normal names for Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf tropical storms and hurricanes in this record-breaking season. For the rest of the year, the National Hurricane Center will be using the letters of the Greek alphabet for names. The NHC began naming storms in 1953. The only other year that NHC had to resort to Greek letters was 2005, the season that brought us Katrina, along with 30 other named tropical cyclones.
How long will the current milder, less humid air mass stick around? A large surface high pressure system currently dominates the eastern United States providing us with cool northeasterly to easterly winds. However, as the ridge of high pressure slides slowly eastward away from us, the stationary front in the northern Gulf may begin to move back toward us as a warm front. That would also open the door for Tropical Storm Alpha in the southwestern Gulf to head our way instead of moving into south Texas. On Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, “Confidence in the details of the track forecast remain low at this time,” and “The most certain aspect of the forecast is that the system will not be moving anywhere very quickly well into the coming week.”
In the meantime, let’s enjoy a taste of fall. Especially since a return of warmth and humidity could also mean an unwelcome visitor from the tropics. For the second week in a row, it would be wise to occasionally check in with the National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.gov for the latest forecast on a slow-moving, erratic storm in the Gulf of Mexico.