Focused on Mississippi: September Gales

Focused on Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – I was just a brand new weather man years ago when I heard an old man use the term ‘September Gales’ for the occasional tropical systems we get here in mid-state. That’s what they called them mid-century and before last century, when out of a clear late summer or early autumn sky, clouds would billow up and a stiff breeze would blow and rain would fall.

A September gale could do anything from give a refreshing watering to an overnight wiping out a whole crop of cotton. They didn’t happen every year, but often enough to have a name for their kind of storm and a reputation.

Now, Katrina was the bench mark for destruction this far inland. Hopefully, we’ll never have another storm like that again, but other systems have done their fair of damage. Power outages are the worst part. The other problem would be downed trees in extreme circumstances. Hurricane Gustav in 2008 closed the Natchez Trace all the way north to Jackson because of downed trees.

And then there is flooding. You can get a month’s worth of rain in just a few hours with a tropical system. It makes for good sleeping weather, unless it’s flooding your crop or your house.

We have a definite advantage nowadays with our tropical system forecasting. Computer models, satellites and radar can tell us when a storm is days away and give us time to batten down or evacuate. But back in the old days, about the most advance notice they’d get for an impending tropical system was clouds starting to billow up over the cottonwoods from the south. By then, all you could do was pray for the best.

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