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May, 2017 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
Rain just kept coming in May, and this kept area rivers high in eastern Arkansas. Huge tracts of cropland were under water, causing extensive damage. Flash flooding was somewhat localized, but high water closed several highways. There was a huge hail event during the first half of the month, and episodes of damaging straight-line winds later on. Only two tornadoes were spawned.

 

Record Temperatures
 
There were a few record low temperatures tied or broken in late May. Check out the records below.

 

Site Record Low (Date of Occurrence)
El Dorado 47 (05/25)
Hot Springs 47 (05/25)
Stuttgart 57T (05/24)
Texarkana 50T (05/25)
Note: "T" means record was tied.

 

More Rain/River Flooding Continues/Bouts of Severe Weather
 
A record crest of 29.0 feet occurred along the Black River at Pocahontas (Randolph County) on  05/02/2017.
In the picture: A record crest of 29.0 feet occurred along the Black River at Pocahontas (Randolph County) on  05/02/2017. 
 

The story heading into May was moderate to major flooding along the Black, White, and Cache Rivers (northern and eastern Arkansas) following a deluge that hit in late April. A record crest of 29.0 feet was reached along the Black River at Pocahontas (Randolph County) on May 2nd (breaking the previous record of 28.5 feet in late April, 2011).

 

Not Just the Black River

The Current River runs out of southern Missouri into northern Arkansas, and flows into the Black River just east (upstream) of Pocahontas (Randolph County). Twenty five miles away at Doniphan, MO, the Current River crested at 33.13 feet on May 1st. This was well above the previous high mark of 26.80 feet on March 1, 1904. The flow rate was an exceptional 183,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), dwarfing the usual trickle of 2,000 to 3,000 CFS. This tremendous and historic amount of water was injected into the Black River, and was a huge contributor to the flooding that occurred locally.

 

Water engulfed more than 950,000 acres of cropland (in 21 of 75 counties), causing over $175 million in losses (especially to rice, soybeans, and corn). These rivers remained above flood stages at most forecast points all month.

 

The satellite showed showers and thunderstorms becoming widespread on 05/03/2017, with precipitation building from southwest Arkansas to the northeast with time.
Satellite at 715 am CDT (05/03)  |  Satellite at 1015 am CDT (05/03)
Satellite at 115 pm CDT (05/03)  |  Satellite at 415 pm CDT (05/04)
Satellite at 715 pm CDT (05/03)
In the pictures: The satellite showed showers and thunderstorms becoming widespread on 05/03/2017, with precipitation building from southwest Arkansas to the northeast with time.
 

Rain was not needed as May began, but it was in the forecast on the 3rd as an intensifying storm system visited from the Plains. Showers and thunderstorms went from scattered to widespread in just a few hours, with heavy downpours in southwest sections of the state during the morning. Rain picked in other parts of the state during the afternoon and overnight hours.

Roads were flooded in Piney (Garland County), Sheridan (Grant County), and Sulphur Springs (Jefferson County), with high water along Highway 53 in Gurdon and Whelen Springs (both in Clark County). Two to three feet of water covered Highway 7 at Dalark (Dallas County). Severe weather was minimal, with one report of quarter size hail at Malvern (Hot Spring County).

Twenty four hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on the 4th included 3.81 inches at Antoine (Pike County), 3.20 inches at Bluff City (Nevada County), 3.01 inches at Sparkman (Dallas County), 3.00 inches at Hot Springs National Park (Garland County), and 2.99 inches at Narrows Dam (Pike County).

 

Hail was extreme (baseball size and larger) at Bull Shoals (Marion County) on 05/11/2017. Similar size hail punched holes and busted out vehicle windows at Omaha (Boone County). Rotation was noted in a couple of storms, with a wall cloud witnessed north of Mountain Home (Baxter County). The photos are courtesy of Michael McCloskey (via Twitter), Scott Shaddox (via Twitter), and Seth Gray (via Facebook) respectively.
Hail Nearly Baseball Size at Bull Shoals (Marion County)
Holes Punched in Vehicle Window in Omaha (Boone County)
A Wall Cloud North of Mountain Home (Baxter County)
In the pictures: Hail was extreme (baseball size and larger) at Bull Shoals (Marion County) on 05/11/2017. Similar size hail punched holes and busted out vehicle windows at Omaha (Boone County). Rotation was noted in a couple of storms, with a wall cloud witnessed north of Mountain Home (Baxter County). The photos are courtesy of Michael McCloskey (via Twitter), Scott Shaddox (via Twitter), and Seth Gray (via Facebook) respectively. 
 

On the 11th, severe storms were much more of an issue. Powerful storm updrafts carried raindrops to cold cloud tops, and ice formed. Hailstones were suspended in the clouds for a prolonged period, and became huge. When they finally came down, they were jaw-dropping and destructive. 

Baseball to softball size hail was reported near Cauthron (Logan County), Omaha (Boone County), and Bull Shoals (Marion County). At Omaha (Boone County), windows were busted out of vehicles.

Hail at least four inches in diameter (softball size) had not been reported in the state since 2015. This was one of only fifty or so cases of hail this large in Arkansas since 1950. Ten of these cases were on April 2, 2006 (a classic huge hail episode). To sum it up, this was a somewhat rare event.

 

A big ridge of high pressure ("H") over the southeast United States slowed the eastward progress of a large storm system ("L") in the Rockies on 05/19/2017. This resulted is a nearly stalled front to the northwest of Arkansas, and round after round of severe weather surrounding the front.
In the picture: A big ridge of high pressure ("H") over the southeast United States slowed the eastward progress of a large storm system ("L") in the Rockies on 05/19/2017. This resulted is a nearly stalled front to the northwest of Arkansas, and round after round of severe weather surrounding the front.
 

A blocking pattern setup in mid-May. A ridge of high pressure over the southeast United States slowed the eastward progress of incoming storm systems approaching from the Rockies. In the end, a front stalled across the middle of the country, and was the focus for several rounds of severe thunderstorms to the northwest of Arkansas.

Outbreaks of severe weather occurred from Wisconsin to Texas from the 15th through the 18th. Parts of New England and the Ohio Valley were involved by the 18th. Over 1200 reports of tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds were counted in the four day period according to the Storm Prediction Center.

On the 19th, the ridge to the east finally started weakening. This allowed storminess in the Plains to build into the region. Before dawn, numerous trees were toppled by damaging straight-line winds in Johnson and Newton Counties. At a high school in Clarksville (Johnson County), a sign and a scoreboard were blown down. There was a weak tornado (rated EF0) spawned a few miles southwest of Bentonville (Benton County). Later in the day, isolated severe storms deposited hail. Golf ball size hail was reported at Salem (Fulton County), with half dollar size hail at Austin (Lonoke County), and quarter size hail at Conway (Faulkner County), Oxford (Izard County), and Pleasant Plains (Independence County).

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed showers and thunderstorms slowly building over the northern half of Arkansas early on 05/20/2017.
Radar at 548 pm CDT (05/19)  |  Radar at 758 pm CDT (05/19)
Radar at 1008 pm CDT (05/19)  |  Radar at 1238 am CDT (05/20)
Radar at 358 am CDT (05/20)
In the pictures: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed showers and thunderstorms slowly building over the northern half of Arkansas early on 05/20/2017.
 

During the morning hours of the 20th, another large batch of thunderstorms slowly rolled into the area. Several inches of rain flooded Highway 252 near Lavaca (Sebastian County), and the road was closed. High water was also reported along Highway 13 at Judsonia (White County). Three inches of rain dumped in three hours in West Little Rock (Pulaski County). Almost four inches of liquid was measured in Searcy (White County) in a similar time frame.

 

Forty eight hour rainfall through 700 pm CDT on 05/20/2017.
In the picture: Forty eight hour rainfall through 700 pm CDT on 05/20/2017.
 

Forty eight hour rainfall through 700 pm CDT on the 20th included 4.29 inches at Fort Smith (Sebastian County), 3.85 inches at Highfill (Benton County), 3.15 inches at Harrison (Boone County), 3.05 inches at Fayetteville (Washington County), and 2.52 inches at Newport (Jackson County).

More than six inches of precipitation collected in portions of central and eastern Oklahoma. This not only caused widespread flash flooding (roads closed, water into homes and businesses, etc), it caused the Arkansas River to swell. Flow rates increased to 150,000 to more than 200,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), which is well above the usual 25,000 to 50,000 cfs. Minor to moderate flooding occurred at Van Buren (Crawford County, Ozark (Franklin County), and Morrilton (Conway County).

 

Various models (colored lines with dots) had CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) values climbing over 6000 Joules/kilogram at Tulsa, OK during the afternoon of 05/27/2017. CAPE is not only a measure of energy available for thunderstorm development, it is related to the strength of storm updrafts and the potential for severe weather.
In the picture: Various models (colored lines with dots) had CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) values climbing over 6000 Joules/kilogram at Tulsa, OK during the afternoon of 05/27/2017. CAPE is not only a measure of energy available for thunderstorm development, it is related to the strength of storm updrafts and the potential for severe weather.
 

On the 27th, temperatures climbed into the mid 80s to lower 90s. It was 92 degrees at Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and 90 degrees at De Queen (Sevier County) and Monticello (Drew County). In the southern Plains, CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) values were extreme (over 6000 Joules/kilogram). Unleashing this much energy would result in not only a higher potential of severe weather, but a greater magnitude of what storms could produce (strong tornadoes, giant hail, hurricane force winds, etc).

 

While there was a lot of CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) at 1000 pm CDT on 05/27/2017, it was above a cap/inversion (rising temperatures with height). Air parcels had to get above the cap to become warmer than the surrounding environment and ascend freely (to provide moisture for storm clouds and rain). The cap was preventing this from happening, and air parcels were grounded.
In the picture: While there was a lot of CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) at 1000 pm CDT on 05/27/2017, it was above a cap/inversion (rising temperatures with height). Air parcels had to get above the cap to become warmer than the surrounding environment and ascend freely (to provide moisture for storm clouds and rain). The cap was preventing this from happening, and air parcels were grounded.
 

There was one limiting factor. An inversion (climbing temperatures with height) aloft was not allowing air parcels to realize all of the energy available above the inversion (the parcels were "capped"). As long as air parcels were suppressed, storms would be less of an issue. In fact, much of the 27th went by with no storms in the state.

 

There were numerous reports of wind damage and large hail in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on 05/28/2017, especially from Missouri into the Tennessee Valley. There were a few tornadoes as well. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
In the picture: There were numerous reports of wind damage and large hail in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on 05/28/2017, especially from Missouri into the Tennessee Valley. There were a few tornadoes as well. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
 

The cap did break in places during the evening, especially the northeast. Storms swept from Missouri through areas north and east of Little Rock (Pulaski County), and were responsible for mainly wind damage. Wind gusts reached 60 to more than 70 mph in places.

A tree was blown onto a car at Ash Flat (Sharp County), with trees on houses in Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County), Lepanto (Poinsett County), Marion (Crittenden County), and Whitton (Mississippi County). Another tree fell onto two mobile homes at Crawfordsville (Crittenden County), and an injury resulted. Downed trees blocked Highways 141 and 358 near Walcott (Greene County). A 67 mph gust was measured at Corning (Clay County).

Toward midnight CDT, the cap broke farther west. One storm spawned a tornado (rated EF1) from Short, OK to Natural Dam (Crawford County). Along the roughly eleven mile track, some homes were damaged and outbuildings were destroyed.  

A bowing line of storms tore through barns and outbuildings at Lutherville (Johnson County) and uncorked a 62 mph gust at Russellville (Pope County). Metal roofing was removed from a row of buildings at Pottsville (Pope County). North of Morrilton (Conway County), a tree was pushed on a house.

A similar line of storms caused tree and power line damage in much of Montgomery County and caused roof damage to a dozen storage units near Hot Springs (Garland County).

By the time May ended, above average rainfall totals were common across the central and eastern counties. Amounts were one and a half to more than three inches over par at El Dorado (Union County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County).

 

Precipitation in May, 2017
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 6.24 6.04 +0.20 103%
Harrison (NC AR) 5.18 4.69 +0.49 110%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 6.63 4.61 +2.02 144%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 6.45 5.47 +0.98 118%
Little Rock (C AR) 6.82 4.87 +1.95 140%
West Memphis (EC AR) 4.48 5.24 -0.76 85%
Texarkana (SW AR) 3.94 5.09 -1.15 77%
El Dorado (SC AR) 7.24 5.05 +2.21 143%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 8.38 5.05 +3.33 166%

 

While temperatures in May were at or a little below average, 2017 was the second warmest year through the first five months. Even so, there had yet to be a 90 degree day at Little Rock (Pulaski County). This had happened only a third of all years going back to 1880.

 

Links of Interest
May 3-4, 2017 (heavy rain)
May 11-12, 2017 (huge hail/pockets of heavy rain)
May 19-21, 2017 (severe storms/areas of heavy rain)
May 27-28, 2017 (severe storms/areas of heavy rain)

 

Additional May Details
 
For more details about May, 2017...go to the "Temperatures and Precipitation" section below.

 

Temperatures and Precipitation
Temperatures were at or a little below average in May. Readings at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to right. May, 2017 Temperatures in North Little Rock

 

May, 2017 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was above average in most of Arkansas. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

To right, a look at precipitation across the state. May, 2017 Precipitation in Arkansas

 

For a look at actual temperatures and precipitation in Arkansas as measured by the cooperative observer network, click here.