Area temperatures stay above seasonal averages

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Azaleas bloom Thursday afternoon at the Burden Center in Baton Rouge. Due to warmer than usual winter weather, azaleas have been blooming earlier than normal, said Bob Souvestre, of the LSU Agricultural Center.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Azaleas bloom Thursday afternoon at the Burden Center in Baton Rouge. Due to warmer than usual winter weather, azaleas have been blooming earlier than normal, said Bob Souvestre, of the LSU Agricultural Center.

While winter-related storms in the Northeast and the Midwest have closed schools, businesses and roads and grounded flights, the weather in southeast Louisiana has been warmer than normal, officials said.

Temperatures in the Baton Rouge area have been running above average such as on Feb. 5 when the average temperature at the Metro Airport was 62 degrees, higher than the average normal of 53.2 degrees.

“Overall, it’s been a pretty warm run,” State Climatologist Barry Keim said about this winter’s weather in south Louisiana. “It sounds like we’re running ahead of normal.”

Last year on Feb. 5, the average temperature was 56 degrees at the airport.

“Last year was very mild as well,” Keim said.

The number of freezes is also down from last year, Keim said.

The normal average number of days per month where the temperature dips to 32 degrees or lower in Baton Rouge is 1.6 days for November; 6.3 days for December; 8.1 days for January; and 4.2 days for February, Keim said.

However, from Nov. 1 to Feb. 5, there have been only five days of freezing temperatures in Baton Rouge with one day in November and four days in December, Keim said. There were no freezing temperatures in January or so far in February, he said.

In the New Orleans area, the normal average number of freezing days from November through February in 11.6 days, but temperatures measured at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner haven’t reached freezing so far this winter, Keim said.

Although there haven’t been as many cold days this year as normal, at least the pattern of where the cold weather comes from has returned, Keim said. Normally, cold blasts that hit south Louisiana originate in Canada or even Siberia, he said.

However, last year any cold weather the area received came from the Pacific Ocean traveling west to east which was very unusual, Keim said.

The normal north-south pattern of cold winter weather returned this year yet what cold air has gotten into southern Louisiana just hasn’t been that cold, he said.

“Every winter is something new,” Keim said.

Forecasts for the next three months show that there’s more of the same likely in store for south Louisiana with a greater probability of warmer and drier than normal weather possible, he said.

Bob Souvestre, a county agent with the LSU Agricultural Center, said the extended warmer weather this year has had some impact on area blooming plants.

“Azaleas have begun popping out and showing color,” he said.

Typically, azaleas would reach their peak blooming time in mid to late March and even into early April “and here it is early February and they’re showing some color,” Souvestre said.

Although other bed plants like pansies and violas could start blooming early, the downside to that is if cold weather does arrive in the next couple of months, they could be damaged, he said.

But in the meantime, home gardeners can enjoy a full season of blooming plants, Souvestre said.

“We have a little bit more spring color in February,” he said.