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May Is New Orleans’ Third Month In A Row Of Record-Breaking Rain

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Heavy rain and flooding is likely throughout the Gulf south through Thursday.

It’s another soaking wet month in New Orleans.

Eleven days into May, we’re on track to break the state’s record for the month, which was 21 inches in 1995.

The average for May is about 5 inches. Not even midway through the month, the city has already received nearly 8 inches of rain.

This is the third consecutive month of record-breaking rain in New Orleans, according to the National Weather Service office in Slidell.

The April average is also around 5 inches, and last month the city got about 13 inches. March saw the same trend: the average being around 5 inches, the actual amount this year being nearly 10 inches.

A wetter-than-average spring tracks with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecasts for the Gulf South.

On Tuesday morning, some areas received up to 2 inches of rain, and another 2 to 4 inches possible through Thursday morning.

The ground is saturated across the region, causing local street flooding and high water in bayous and rivers across the state. Flash flood watches are in effect for most of the southern part of the state through Wednesday.

The Mississippi River is high, prompting the Army Corps to continue Phase 1 flood fight procedures, meaning they’re conducting twice-weekly inspections of the levees between Baton Rouge and New Orleans after the water level at the Carrollton Gauge rose back above 11 feet.

While meteorologists aren’t keen to draw connections between specific rainfall events and climate change, research has shown that climate change is bringing heavier precipitation. As temperatures warm globally, more water evaporates off of the ocean and falls as rain on land.

State climatologist Barry Keim said it’s obvious that rainfall is increasing but questions whether humans are causing it. Keim co-authored a 2019 study that found that storms are dropping more water during a shorter period of time.

“It fits the overall pattern that with warmer temperatures the atmosphere can store more moisture and storms can produce more rainfall,” Keim said. “It’s not conclusive though. It’s no smoking gun.”

He said his team at LSU and NOAA’s Southern Regional Climate Center are keeping an eye on the trends. “We’re just scratching our heads as to whether this means something,” said Keim, who added that his backyard in Baton Rouge has “been a lake for the past few days.”

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and local listeners.

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