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Last three months much wetter than normal

By Skip Rigney

This has been one of the wettest spring and early summer periods in over 50 years in an area from Baton Rouge eastward to Pascagoula, including southern Pearl River County.

The year began normally enough with rainfall accumulations tracking along at an average pace for January through most of March. However, heavy rain during March 23-25 kicked off three months of above-normal precipitation. Not only have there been six events with rainfall totaling over three inches in Pearl River County, rain has fallen on 40 of the 94 days since March 23rd.  During the 100 years of records at the Poplarville Experiment Station only 1991 had more days with rain from March 23rd through June 24th with 48.

Over 50 inches of rain has fallen across southern Pearl River County since January 1st. That’s according to the National Weather Service (NWS) based on data from their radar in Slidell. A rain gauge 6 miles east-northeast of Picayune, whose private owner reports observations to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), has collected 58.07 inches this year.

As one moves north and west in Pearl River County, radar-estimated rainfall totals gradually decrease into the 40 to 50 inch range for 2021. That’s still above average, but not nearly as excessive as areas to the south.

For the last 30 years, the average rainfall from January through June was about 34 inches in both Picayune and Poplarville. Average rainfall for the entire year in Pearl River County is about 65 inches. Those statistics are from the climate normals released earlier this year by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information for the period 1991-2020 (www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/us-climate-normals/).

Last weekend Tropical Storm Claudette made its contribution to this year’s soggy start. The center of the  storm’s circulation skirted just west of the Pearl River. But, as is often the case with weak tropical systems, Claudette was lop-sided with the highest winds and heavy rain displaced well to the east. Rainfall totals for 24 hours last Friday and Saturday differed dramatically across the county. In the extreme west near the Pearl River, less than two inches fell. Meanwhile, 30 miles away in the far eastern part of the county, a ten-inch deluge took place.

Will the second half of 2021 be as wet as the first half? Looking back at historical weather records across south Mississippi and southeast Louisiana, the first halves of 2017, 1991, and 1980 were also much wetter-than-average. The good news is that rainfall in the second halves of those years was near or below normal.

However, in the upcoming week, scattered mainly afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms will continue to pop up each day. Not as many are expected as occurred this past week because somewhat drier air is expected to filter into the upper levels of the atmosphere. There could be a few days when you get no rain at all, while your neighbors down the road get a gully washer. With rain chances remaining in the 30 to 70 percent range during the daytime hours, you definitely should have a contingency plan for any outdoor activities.