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December, 2018 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
The year ended with a lot of rain in December. It was the fifth month in a row with above average precipitation. Too much rain led to minor flooding on some area rivers. Overall, it was a mild December, but there was a winter event during the first half of the month. This resulted in an ice storm across northeast sections of the state.

 

Record Temperatures
 
There were no record high/low temperatures tied or broken in December.

 

 Lots of Rain/Some Wintry Precipitation
 
Severe weather reports in the forty eight hour period ending at 600 am CST on 12/02/2018. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
In the picture: Severe weather reports in the forty eight hour period ending at 600 am CST on 12/02/2018. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
 

The month began with a severe weather episode across northern and western Arkansas that started on November 30th. There were quite a few reports of wind damage during the wee hours of December 1st. The most extensive destruction was at Ash Flat (Sharp County), with roofs off of buildings, a storage building thrown, and trailers tossed across a parking lot into a ditch. Winds were likely over 80 mph. Downed trees blocked highways and buildings were damaged at Canehill (Washington County). Poultry houses were torn up at Clifty and Hindsville (both in Madison County). A 67 mph wind gust was measured at Flippin (Marion County), with a 58 mph gust at Siloam Springs (Benton County). The event also featured four mostly weak tornadoes, with a strongest of these (rated EF2) tearing through areas from Van Buren to Mountainburg (both in Crawford County)

 

A storm system ("L") tracking along the Gulf Coast threw moisture into cold air provided by Canadian high pressure ("H") to the north/east of Arkansas in the forty two hour period ending at 600 am CST on 12/09/2018. This resulted in a wintry mix of precipitation (rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow) across the region.
Forecast Map at 1200 pm CST (12/07)  |  Forecast Map at 600 pm CST (12/07)
Forecast Map at 1200 am CST (12/08)  |  Forecast Map at 600 am CST (12/08)
Forecast Map at 600 pm CST (12/08)  |  Forecast Map at 600 am CST (12/09)
Loop
In the pictures: A storm system ("L") tracking along the Gulf Coast threw moisture into cold air provided by Canadian high pressure ("H") to the north/east of Arkansas in the forty two hour period ending at 600 am CST on 12/09/2018. This resulted in a wintry mix of precipitation (rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow) across the region.
 

A week later, it was a complex scenario. Canadian high pressure was setting up over the Ohio Valley, and was bringing subfreezing temperatures and dry conditions to northern sections of the state. A storm system was approaching from the southwest, with moisture thrown into the cold and dry air. Rain began across the southern counties on the 7th, but it was uncertain what would fall from the sky farther north on the 8th/9th as moisture slowly increased toward the Missouri border.

 

Data gathered from soundings (temperature and dewpoint profiles with height) on 12/08/2018 showed above freezing air aloft at North Little Rock (Pulaski County). At 600 am CST (12Z), it was 5 to 6 degrees Celsius at 1500 meters (4921 feet). By 1200 pm CST (18Z), it was 4 degrees Celsius at the same level, and 2 to 3 degrees Celsius at 300 pm CST (21Z). While there was gradual cooling with time, melting continued overhead with snow becoming liquid before reaching the ground.
Temperature Profile at 600 am CST (12/08)  |  Temperature Profile at 1200 pm CST (12/08)
Temperature Profile at 300 pm CST (12/08)
In the pictures: Data gathered from soundings (temperature and dewpoint profiles with height) on 12/08/2018 showed above freezing air aloft at North Little Rock (Pulaski County). At 600 am CST (12Z), it was 5 to 6 degrees Celsius at 1500 meters (4921 feet). By 1200 pm CST (18Z), it was 4 degrees Celsius at the same level, and 2 to 3 degrees Celsius at 300 pm CST (21Z). While there was gradual cooling with time, melting continued overhead with snow becoming liquid before reaching the ground.
 

The forecast was not a slam dunk because of a three huge factors. First, a dry atmosphere over the northern counties was eroding moisture arriving from the south. Given this, it was difficult to know how much moisture would be available to produce snow and ice. Predicting accumulations accurately was a challenge. Second, forecast models showed a layer of above freezing air aloft. This was verified by several balloon launches on the 8th. At 600 am CST, it was 42 degrees at 4900 feet over North Little Rock (Pulaski County). At 1200 pm CST, it was still 40 degrees overhead, and 36 degrees at 300 pm CST. As long as this was happening, snow was going to melt before reaching the ground. Not knowing when this warm layer would disappear affected the snow forecast. Finally, with melting occurring, it was important to know if temperatures would stay below freezing near the ground, or warm up a little. If it was the former, then freezing rain would be a huge issue. Any warming would limit how much icing took place.

 

A couple of inches of snow was measured at Marshall (Searcy County) on 12/08/2018. The photo is courtesy of Bob King.
In the picture: A couple of inches of snow was measured at Marshall (Searcy County) on 12/08/2018. The photo is courtesy of Bob King. Click to enlarge.
Ice was building up on exposed objects in Swifton (Jackson County) on 12/08/2018. The photo is courtesy of Landon Russell.
In the picture: Ice was building up on exposed objects in Swifton (Jackson County) on 12/08/2018. The photo is courtesy of Landon Russell. Click to enlarge.
 

In the end, the warm layer went away late on the 8th/early on the 9th in parts of the north. This allowed snow to fall for a few hours in places. At Mountain View (Stone County), three inches of powder was measured, with two to three inches at Dennard (Van Buren County), and two inches at Botkinburg (Van Buren County), Calico Rock (Izard County), Leslie (Searcy County), Marshall (Searcy County), and Wayton (Newton County).

The warm layer stuck around for most of the event in the northeast, and ground temperatures hovered around 32 degrees. This turned into an ice storm for several counties. At least three quarters of an inch of ice accrued on exposed objects near Velvet Ridge (White County), with half to three quarters of an inch at Alicia (Lawrence County), Augusta (Woodruff County), Batesville (Independence County), Steprock (White County), and Swifton (Jackson County). Because of the ice, at least 40,000 power outages were reported, with trees and tree limbs downed.

There was also heavy rain. South of Little Rock (Pulaski County), two to more than four inches of liquid dumped. In the ninety six hour period ending at 600 am CST on the 10th, El Dorado (Union County) received 4.66 inches of rain, with 3.54 inches at Monticello (Drew County), and  3.27 inches at Texarkana (Miller County).

 

 

In the video: The satellite loop showed a storm system winding up over Louisiana on 12/14/2018. To the northwest of the system, there were clouds and rain in Arkansas.
 

There was more rain on the 13th/14th. A storm system aloft dove out of the Rockies into the southern Plains, and quickly intensified as it headed along the Gulf Coast. Central Arkansas got hammered on the 13th, with over three inches of rain from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to just west of Searcy (White County). North of Jacksonville (Pulaski County), at least one road was covered by water in several locations. Just northeast of Sheridan (Grant County), a county road was flooded.

Not much changed on the 14th, with the most rain (one to two inches) in central sections of the state. Forty eight hour amounts through 600 am CST on the 15th included 5.72 inches at Little Rock (Pulaski County), 5.36 inches at North Little Rock (Pulaski County), 5.04 inches at Marche (Pulaski County), 4.79 inches at Cabot (Lonoke County), 4.53 inches at Crystal Valley (Pulaski County), and 3.98 inches at Keo (Lonoke County), 3.23 inches at Batesville (Independence County), and 3.16 inches at Searcy (White County).

 

There was minor flooding on several area rivers on 12/15/2018.
In the picture: There was minor flooding on several area rivers on 12/15/2018.
 

Not surprisingly, several rivers were running high. There was minor flooding occurring or expected along portions of the Black, Cache, Fourche LaFave, Ouachita, and lower White Rivers.

 

A deep southerly flow and lots of moisture were noted between a storm system ("L") over the southwest United States and a ridge of high pressure ("H") over southern Florida on 12/30/2018.
In the picture: A deep southerly flow and lots of moisture were noted between a storm system ("L") over the southwest United States and a ridge of high pressure ("H") over southern Florida on 12/30/2018.
 

An active Subtropical Jet (river of air over the southern United States) drove a couple of storm systems toward the region from the southwest to end December. The systems pulled lots moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico, and the umbrellas came out. After two rounds of downpours on the 26th/27th and the 30th/31st, much of the south and west received two to more than four inches of rain

As the month ended, rainfall was above average for the fifth month in a row. There was a surplus of precipitation by more than two inches at El Dorado (Union County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Texarkana (Miller County).

 

Precipitation in December, 2018
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 3.66 3.24 +0.42 113%
Harrison (NC AR) 4.91 3.20 +1.71 153%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 4.86 4.77 +0.09 102%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 5.51 3.29 +2.22 167%
Little Rock (C AR) 10.32 4.97 +5.35 208%
West Memphis (EC AR) 6.60 5.42 +1.18 122%
Texarkana (SW AR) 7.14 5.05 +2.09 141%
El Dorado (SC AR) 11.30 5.18 +6.12 218%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 7.32 5.44 +1.88 135%

 

In the picture: The event during the last few days of December resulted in 2.62 inches of rain at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), making 2018 the third wettest year on record locally.
 

Following the rain, 2018 finished as the 3rd wettest year on record at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and the fourth wettest yeat at Little Rock (Pulaski County). Amounts were more than 20 inches above average at both locations.

 

Links of Interest
November 30-December 1, 2018 (severe storms/heavy rain)
December 7-9, 2018 (cold with snow/ice/heavy rain)
December 13-14, 2018 (heavy rain)
December 26-31, 2018 (heavy rain)

 

Additional December Details
 
For more details about December, 2018...go to the "Temperatures and Precipitation" section below.

 

Temperatures and Precipitation
Temperatures in December were a little above normal. Readings at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to right. December, 2018 Temperatures in North Little Rock

 

December, 2018 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was above to well above average at most locations. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

To right, a look at precipitation across the state. December, 2018 Precipitation in Arkansas

 

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