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Tropics: The Devastation of Harvey on August 25-31, 2017
 
Major Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast during the evening of 08/25/2017.
In the picture: Major Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast during the evening of 08/25/2017.
 

It was a bad situation to the southwest of Arkansas on August 25th. Harvey had become a major hurricane (Category 4), with 130 mph sustained winds. The system came ashore near Rockport, TX during the late evening, and hit with wind and waves. Numerous homes and businesses were heavily damaged or destroyed, and a 10 to 12 foot wall of water flooded the region. That was phase one of this event.

 

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed rain spiraling around the north/east side of Tropical Storm Harvey in eastern Texas and southwest Louisiana early on 08/27/2017.
In the picture: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed rain spiraling around the north/east side of Tropical Storm Harvey in eastern Texas and southwest Louisiana early on 08/27/2017.
 

Phase two of Harvey was the rain, and a lot of it. Clouds unleashed two to more than four feet of precipitation just northeast of where the system went inland. Most of this occurred from the 26th through the 29th.

 

 

Ninety six hour (four day) rainfall through 1200 am CDT on 08/30/2017.
In the picture: Ninety six hour (four day) rainfall through 1200 am CDT on 08/30/2017.
 

Through the 29th, one site on the east side of Houston, TX (Cedar Bayou) reported 51.88 inches of rain. This is the most rain from a single tropical system in the continental United States, topping the previous record of 48 inches at Medina, TX with Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978. Almost 40 inches of liquid was measured for the month at Houston's Intercontinental Airport, making August, 2017 the wettest month on record locally.

 

A Year of Rain in Four Days

In an average year at Little Rock (Pulaski County), 49.75 inches of rain falls (based on data from 1981 to 2010). Parts of Houston, TX got this much or more liquid in four days!

 

Roughly 80 miles away (to the northeast), a staggering 26.03 inches of rain swamped Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX on the 29th. This more than doubled the local one day precipitation record of 12.76 inches on May 19, 1923. It was also more than any month on record, topping the 22.74 inches received in November of 1902. Another 14.50 inches dumped the previous two days.

 

The remnants of Hurricane Harvey wobbled around eastern Texas through the afternoon of 08/29/2017 given a blocking ridge of high pressure ("H") in the western United States and a northwest wind flow aloft east of the Rockies.
In the picture: The remnants of Hurricane Harvey wobbled around eastern Texas through the afternoon of 08/29/2017 given a blocking ridge of high pressure ("H") in the western United States and a northwest wind flow aloft east of the Rockies.
 

Why so much rain? Harvey was stuck in eastern Texas because there was nothing to push the system away. There was an impenetrable ridge of high pressure to the west, and a northwest wind flow aloft (forcing Harvey to the south) over the eastern United States.

 

High temperatures on 08/26/2017.
In the picture: High temperatures on 08/26/2017.
 

In Arkansas, this northwest flow not only kept Harvey away, it provided unseasonably cool air. For example, high temperatures on the 26th were only in the upper 70s to mid 80s with lots of clouds and patchy light rain.

 

Buffalo Bayou in Houston, TX was already at a record level during the morning of 08/27/2017. This was one of several examples of major to unprecedented flooding in eastern Texas.
In the picture: Buffalo Bayou in Houston, TX was already at a record level during the morning of 08/27/2017. This was one of several examples of major to unprecedented flooding in eastern Texas.
 

Back in Houston, TX, colossal amounts of rain led to epic and catastrophic flooding, with water flowing into thousands of structures and many calls for help from residents. One local meteorologist estimated 100,000 homes flooded. Both airports (Intercontinental and Hobby) were closed. Just northeast of town, multiple explosions happened at a chemical plant in Crosby, TX early on the 31st. The chemicals needed to stay cool, but generators used to power refrigerators (when electricity failed) became waterlogged. 

Much of Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX was transformed into a lake. A shelter was evacuated as it began filling with water. The largest oil refinery in the country was forced to shut down. The Neches River was expected to crest (in early September) above the previous high mark (in October, 1994) by six feet. A pumping station along the river became overwhelmed early on the 31st, and left residents with no clean water supply.

 

In the picture: The National Weather Service in Houston, TX (via Twitter) advised residents to go to the roofs of their homes during epic flooding early on 08/27/2017.
 

To add to the chaos, more than a dozen brief tornadoes were counted in eastern Texas. This dire situation led to at least 60 fatalities. One drowning victim was a police officer trying to get to work through a flooded underpass in the darkness.

 

Northeast winds gusted to more than 25 mph across parts of southern and eastern Arkansas at 400 pm CDT on 08/30/2017.
In the picture: Northeast winds gusted to more than 25 mph across parts of southern and eastern Arkansas at 400 pm CDT on 08/30/2017.
 

On the 30th, Harvey finally started slowly ejecting to the northeast (away from Texas). Winds began increasing across the southeast half of Arkansas, with gusts exceeding 25 mph.

 

The forecast late on 08/29/2017 (from the National Hurricane Center) had the center of Harvey most missing Arkansas to the south/east.
In the picture: The forecast late on 08/29/2017 (from the National Hurricane Center) had the center of Harvey most missing Arkansas to the south/east.
 

The projected track was directed toward the Tennessee Valley to finish the month. Areas east of Little Rock (Pulaski County) were close enough to the track to worry about heavy downpours and localized flash flooding.

 

Flash flood headlines were in place from eastern Arkansas into western Tennessee and much of Kentucky during the evening of 08/31/2017. A Tornado Watch was posted in portions of Mississippi and Alabama.
In the picture: Flash flood headlines were in place from eastern Arkansas into western Tennessee and much of Kentucky during the evening of 08/31/2017. A Tornado Watch was posted in portions of Mississippi and Alabama.
 

Flash Flood Watches were posted in eastern sections of the state on the 31st. Showers/isolated thunderstorms developed before dawn and continued through the day. By evening, two to four inch rainfall totals were common, with radar estimates over ten inches in spots.

 

Twenty four hour rainfall through 1200 am CDT on 09/01/2017.
In the picture: Twenty four hour rainfall through 1200 am CDT on 09/01/2017.
 

There was a report of almost 11 inches at McCrory (Woodruff County). High water closed roads, and sandbags were used to protect homes. West of Des Arc (Prairie County), there was enough rain to stop travel on Highway 38. Closer to town, the pavement along Highway 323 caved in due to a failed culvert (near a creek). Sections of Highways 17 and 152 were barricaded south of DeWitt (Arkansas County). Roads were also flooded at Beedeville (Jackson County), Blytheville (Mississippi County), and Harrisburg (Poinsett County).

A little southwest of Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), trees and power poles were pushed over or snapped. This may have been the result of a weak tornado.  

Severe weather was more of a concern east of the Mississippi River. A tornado was confirmed just north/east of Tupelo, MS (near Kirkville). The tornado caused damage to homes and carried a double-wide mobile home 100 feet. Another tornado damaged structures near Reform, AL, and sent at least four people to the hospital with injuries.

 

Storm Reports
Preliminary reports of flash flooding in the Little Rock County Warning Area on August 31, 2017 (in red).
Submit a storm report.
There were several reports of flash flooding in eastern Arkansas on August 31st. For a look at the reports, click here.
 
Link of Interest
Plot Reports
In the picture: Preliminary reports of flash flooding in the Little Rock County Warning Area on August 31, 2017 (in red).