Relief comes in form of sunshine

The wet, dreary weather that has hung over south Louisiana almost non-stop since Jan. 8 came to a close Thursday as the sun put in a welcome appearance.

Preliminary information from Jan. 1 through Jan. 15 in Baton Rouge shows that rainfall at Baton Rouge Metro Airport measured 13.75 inches, which is 11.05 inches more than normal, according to the National Weather Service. Within that time period, there were six days when an inch or more of rain fell at the airport.

Normal is the 30-year average from 1981 through 2010.

“The normal amount at Baton Rouge for first half of the month is two and three-quarters inches,” said Bob Wagner, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Slidell.

“That certainly would put it in the range of being very unusual.”

With only half of the month gone, Wagner said, this is already the second wettest January on record for the Baton Rouge area.

He said Baton Rouge needs only a little more than an inch of rain to exceed the record sent in 1998, when 14.94 inches of rain was measured in Baton Rouge.

Although there have been a few colder days recently, the average temperature so far in Baton Rouge has measured 53.4 degrees, which is actually 1.4 degrees above normal, according to the National Weather Service.

In New Orleans from Jan. 1 through Jan. 15, rainfall measured 5.39 inches at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, which is 2.93 inches more than normal. The average temperature so far was 56.6 degrees, which was 3.5 degrees warmer than normal, according to information from the National Weather Service.

In Lafayette, measurements at the Lafayette Regional Airport totaled 10.33 inches from Jan. 1 through Jan. 15 which was 7.58 inches above normal. Temperatures were also 2.1 degrees higher than normal with an average monthly temperature of 54.1 degrees, according to information from the National Weather Service’s Lake Charles office.

Statewide, the week of Jan. 7 through Jan. 13 averaged 5.72 inches of rain which is 4.37 inches above normal, according to the weekly weather study from Barry Keim, state climatologist. Statewide, the temperature averaged 57 degrees, which was 8 degrees above normal.

The dreary weather took a turn for the better Thursday, with sunny skies and a high temperature forecast near 54 degrees, according to the National Weather Service forecast. The clear skies are expected to continue through at least Tuesday with even some high temperatures reaching the low 60s this weekend.

While the wet weather has meant localized flooding across south Louisiana, its impact on agricultural interests has been limited, said Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain.

Although the wet weather occurred between the completion of the sugar harvest and the planting of other crops like corn and soybeans, he said, some farmers have had to incur the extra costs of using pumps to get water off their fields.

In addition, Strain said, the extra rainwater meant crawfish ponds filled, raising concerns about crawfish escaping the ponds or that the high water could last long enough to kill vegetation in the ponds which the crawfish need, he said.

Hopefully, the drier weather in the coming week will help alleviate some of those concerns, Strain said. He said other crops like strawberries and vegetable crops also received a lot of water, but it doesn’t appear that the damage is bad.

Some good news is that the temperature hasn’t fallen to freezing, so that helps nurseries, strawberry and vegetable crops and the state’s citrus growers, Strain said.