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Warm, dry start to spring – storms possible again Sunday

By Skip Rigney

For the second week in a row, there is a possibility of severe thunderstorms on Sunday. However, before discussing that threat, let’s take a look at what kind of spring we’ve had so far as we pass the midpoint of the season.
Spring is off to a warmer-than-usual start in our neck of the woods. From Texas all the way around the Gulf Coast to Florida and 50 to 100 miles inland, daily temperatures since March 1, 2020 have averaged warmer than 95 percent of the years on record.
In the same region, total rainfall has been much below normal, with March 1-April 15, 2020 being drier than 90 to 95 percent of the years on record. As an example, Biloxi, which has 112 years worth of weather records, has only seen one other first half of spring as dry as this one has been so far.
Closer to home, rain gauges in Pearl River County have recorded less than three inches of rain since the start of meteorological spring on March 1st. That’s far less than the historical average of just over eight inches for March 1 through April 15.
We could make up an inch or so of this spring rainfall deficit today and tomorrow. The best chance of showers and thunderstorms will be Sunday from midday into the evening as a low pressure system intensifies and moves from Arkansas into central Mississippi.
Many of the same ingredients that brought tornadoes and severe thunderstorms to central Mississippi last Sunday will be present again this Sunday. Survey teams from the National Weather Service Office in Jackson have been in the field all week and have confirmed fifteen Easter Sunday tornadoes in Mississippi.
The largest, most violent tornado on Easter Sunday touched down near Bassfield about 25 miles northwest of Hattiesburg, then moved northeast across Highway 49 just south of Collins. The tornado had maximum winds of near 190 mph, and at one point along its 68 mile path of destruction was just over two miles wide. That makes it the widest tornado on record in Mississippi, and either the third or fourth widest tornado ever measured in United States history. The twister killed eight people.
While this Sunday’s severe weather is not expected to be as widespread as Easter Sunday’s, you should definitely have an app on your mobile phone that will alert you when watches and warnings are issued. The Red Cross has a free app called Emergency Alert, and many weather companies such as the Weather Channel, Accuweather, and WeatherBug offer free severe weather alert apps.
By Monday and Tuesday the low pressure system will be long gone, and instead, high pressure will cover the Deep South. The dry, sinking air associated with the high pressure system will give us a couple of dry days with afternoon highs in the lower 80s.
However, by Wednesday yet another springtime low pressure system will be forming in the southern Great Plains and heading eastward. The center of the low looks like it may well take a path very similar to the one last Sunday and this Sunday.
That means some time between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning you may need that severe weather alert app again.