South Louisiana residents lived through another quiet hurricane season in 2014 and a cooler-than-usual summer, but they did have to struggle through patches of freezing rain, sleet and impassable road conditions delivered to the state by a polar vortex — a term not commonly associated with this part of the country.
The year also went out with a bang when a strong front spawned a tornado that damaged about 20 homes in Amite near the intersection of La. 16 and La. 1054 on Dec. 23.
Aside from rough bookends in 2014, Louisiana weather had few highlights this year — some heavy spells of rainfall, a number of summer cold fronts that kept the worst of the heat at bay and not even the threat that tropical storms would hit the state.
To start the year, there were four episodes of mixed rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow across the area starting on Jan. 24, when freezing rain closed many elevated roads and bridges in south Louisiana, said Barry Keim, the state climatologist.
That was followed just a few days later by a second round of sleet that thawed and refroze, which again closed large stretches of elevated roads and bridges including Interstate 10 and Interstate 12 for several days.
North Louisiana then got some snow and sleet on Feb. 6.
Yet another cold front came through Louisiana on March 3, bringing more freezing rain for Mardi Gras and closing large stretches of Interstate 10 from Baton Rouge to Lafayette, Keim said.
The long spells of cold and wet weather came to an end later in March, but the cold fronts continued through June, July and August. Instead of causing headaches to south Louisiana drivers, the cooler temperatures provided relief from what can be a brutally hot summer season for the state. Many areas never got above 95 degrees all summer, Keim said.
“It was a curse in the winter but a real blessing in summer,” Keim said, noting that a dip in the jet stream farther south than usual delivered colder air into the region.
A heavy rain system that came through Louisiana from May 27 through May 29 also made Keim’s list of top weather events for the year, dumping almost 18 inches of rain on Convent over 48 hours. Other areas that received heavy rainfall included Lutcher at more than 14 inches, Napoleonville at more than 13 inches, Donaldsonville at more than 12 inches and Gonzales at almost 11 inches of rain during a 48-hour period.
Louisiana residents also experienced another quiet hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. No tropical storms made it into the northern Gulf of Mexico.
It was the ninth straight year, the longest stretch in the past 100 years, when no hurricane with wind speeds of 111 mph or more made landfall in the United States. Although there have been hurricanes that have done major damage, the last “major hurricane” with wind speeds in the Category 3, 4 or 5 range was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
It was the second year that no hurricane impacted Louisiana after a slow-moving Hurricane Isaac pushed water into south Louisiana in 2012.
A number of factors helped play a role in keeping hurricane formation down this year. One was El Niño-like conditions that helped increase wind shear, which can hamper the organization of thunderstorms into a tropical storm.
An El Niño is declared when ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean around the equator are unusually warm, a factor that influences wind and weather patterns.
Although there has been an El Niño watch in effect since the spring, an official El Niño still hasn’t formed. However, weather conditions were close enough to El Niño, including high wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean, that it helped keep the hurricane season relatively average, Keim said.
In total, the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season produced eight named storms, six of which became hurricanes. Two of those became major hurricanes with wind speeds of 111 mph or more, but both stayed out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Severe weather hit the evening of Dec. 23, when a tornado was reported in Tangipahoa Parish. The tornado damaged more than 20 homes and took down trees and power lines. Hail was reported from Beauregard Parish to East Baton Rouge Parish.
The same weather system helped spawn a much stronger tornado in the Mississippi counties of Marion and Lamar, creating a 12-mile path of destruction and causing two deaths, according to the National Weather Service.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.