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Deep moisture to feed numerous showers

By Skip Rigney

After a soggy start to May, we closed out the month with ten straight days without rain. As a bonus, the last two days of the month brought low humidities and cool mornings. Temperatures fell into the upper 50s at many  reporting stations across Pearl River County this past Sunday and Monday mornings. We probably won’t see readings that low again until September.

By Tuesday southerly winds brought back muggy air from the Gulf, and by Wednesday, showers also returned to most locations in the county. The pattern repeated on Thursday and Friday. Some of the heaviest rain was in the northeastern part of the county near Hillsdale, where the combined totals for just Wednesday and Thursday were between three and four inches.

The Bermuda High is centered over the Atlantic Ocean to our east and low pressure is in the upper atmosphere over Texas to our west. Our location in between means there are two factors that will keep numerous daytime showers in the forecast through at least Monday.

First, the flow in the atmosphere from the surface upward several miles will continue to bring a plume of extremely moist air northward across the central Gulf Coast. Second, until the Bermuda High pushes further westward into the Gulf and brings with it sinking air, minor disturbances spawned by the low pressure system and normal daytime heating will provide enough lift to develop rain clouds. While we’re more likely to get wet during the daytime hours, there will still be enough moisture and instability around at night that showers will remain possible.

All locations in Pearl River County are likely to experience multiple showers today, Sunday, and Monday. But even with numerous showers and an occasional thunderstorm, there will be breaks. Unlike at other times of the year when the rain is associated with well-defined, briskly moving fronts or low pressure systems, it’s almost impossible to forecast more than a few hours in advance exactly when it will be raining and when we will be in the breaks. By Tuesday or Wednesday drier air is forecast to creep into the area from over Florida and the eastern Gulf, decreasing, but not eliminating, the chance of showers for the middle and end of the work week.

Hopefully this June 5-8 will not be as eventful in our region as the same week back in 1989. On June 6, 1989, one to two inches of rain fell across Pearl River County. That was just the opening act for the downpours that hit two days later on June 8, 1989, when an additional two to three inches fell across the county. Gulfport received over five inches. A section of Highway 49 south of Hattiesburg was closed after flood waters cut a tunnel under the road.

That day’s stormy weather in the surrounding region was not limited to heavy rain. Even though June is not the primary month for tornadoes in southern Mississippi or Louisiana, a twister devastated the small town of Grosse Tete, Louisiana, 15 miles west of Baton Rouge before daylight on June 8, 1989, killing two and injuring at least two dozen. A few hours later in Mississippi, the same system spawned a tornado that blew down trees and power lines and damaged buildings at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, south of Laurel.