Fall arrives, but in name only

Published 3:17 pm Saturday, September 3, 2022

By Skip Rigney

Happy first weekend of meteorological fall, which also is always Labor Day weekend. You can be excused if you think our weather this weekend is basically the same as during the last weekend of meteorological summer.

“Meteorological fall” is primarily a record keeping and statistical convenience for meteorologists and climatologists. Lumping September, October, and November together and calling the period fall for the entire Northern Hemisphere is the simplest, most clean-cut approach to computing seasonal statistics. The other seasons of the year are similarly divided into three-month durations that begin on the first day of a month and end on the last day of the third month after that.

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The atmosphere doesn’t know anything about such man-made schemes, and so it’s not surprising that the first taste of autumn comes on different dates at different locations, and can vary significantly from year to year.

Even in Minneapolis, Minnesota, one thousand miles to our north, the first two days of meteorological fall this year were just a continuation of summer with highs near 90 and humidity in the muggy range, or at least Minnesotans probably thought it was muggy. Even by our standards, it wasn’t particularly dry.

However, a cool front passed through Minnesota on Friday, bringing that state’s residents a glorious introduction to the new season. Their Labor Day weekend promises to be fair with lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s.

There will be a frontal boundary near south Mississippi this weekend, but to call it a “cool” front would be an overstatement. The air to our north on the other side of the front is slightly drier. The main effect of the boundary will be to provide a little extra lift to the air, enhancing showers and thunderstorms in the mugginess that will remain over our area.

Most of Pearl River County was dry Wednesday through Friday, a welcome change from the rainy weather of recent weeks. But, the lingering frontal boundary and a return of extremely moist air from the Gulf looks like it will send us back into a soggy mode for the weekend and into much of the upcoming week.

On the bright side, it’s not every Labor Day weekend that we can ignore the weather in the tropics. It certainly wasn’t the case in 1985. On the Thursday before Labor Day weekend that year, folks in southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama nervously watched as Hurricane Elena headed toward the north-central Gulf Coast after crossing Cuba.

Coastal Mississippians breathed a sigh of relief that Friday as Elena made a sharp right turn toward the Florida peninsula. However, Elena was not done with sharp turns. After stalling less than 100 miles off the west coast of Florida, on Sunday Elena reversed course and headed back our way.

Elena slammed into the Mississippi Gulf Coast and crossed Pearl River County on Labor Day morning of 1985 with winds over 100 miles per hour. There were many fallen trees and damaged roofs. Overall damage estimates for Mississippi approached one billion dollars.

Thankfully, the nearest tropical cyclones to us this Labor Day weekend will be one, or possibly two, Danielle and Earl, thousands of miles away over the North Atlantic Ocean.