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December, 2020 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
It felt like winter at times in December, with a widespread freeze on the 1st, and snow in northern Arkansas on the 13th. It was also like spring on the 9th/10th, but without severe thunderstorms. Incoming storm systems struggled to find moisture later in the month, but there was a lot of rain just before the year ended.

 

Record Temperatures
 
There were a few record low temperatures on December 1st, and more record highs tied or broken mainly on the 9th/10th. Check out the records below.

 

Site Record Low (Date of Occurrence)
Batesville 19 (12/01)
Jacksonville 18 (12/01)
Stuttgart 25 (12/01)

 

Site Record High (Date of Occurrence)
Batesville 69 (12/21)
El Dorado 76T (12/10)
Fayetteville 73 (12/09), 75 (12/10)
Fort Smith 76 (12/10)
Harrison 77 (12/10)
Jacksonville 73 (12/09), 77 (12/10)
Mount Ida 78 (12/09)
North Little Rock 74T (12/09), 74 (12/10)
Stuttgart 75 (12/10)
Note: "T" means record was tied.

 

 Roller Coaster Temperatures/Snow and Ice in the North/Wet in the South
 
In the video: The satellite showed a powerful storm system approaching Arkansas from the Plains on 12/02/2020.
 

December began with a widespread freeze on the morning of the 1st. Thermometers showed mid teens to mid 20s at most locations. It was 14 degrees at Gilbert (Searcy County), 15 degrees at Evening Shade (Sharp County) and Marshall (Searcy County), and 16 degrees at Clinton (Van Buren County), Mammoth Spring (Fulton County), and Murfreesboro (Pike County).

On the 2nd, the focus was on a large storm system over the middle the country. Afternoon temperatures warmed into the 40s and 50s, and it had warmed enough to keep wintry precipitation to a minimum locally. Mainly rain was in the forecast.

 

A sounding (temperature and dewpoint profile with height) at Springfield, MO indicated that temperatures were subfreezing and snow was likely at elevations above 2000 feet at 600 am CST on 12/03/2020. Readings near the ground were in the mid 30s, with mostly rain (due to melting) and some snow.
In the picture: A sounding (temperature and dewpoint profile with height) at Springfield, MO indicated that temperatures were subfreezing and snow was likely at elevations above 2000 feet at 600 am CST on 12/03/2020. Readings near the ground were in the mid 30s, with mostly rain (due to melting) and some snow.
 

However, there was a lot of cold air aloft associated with the system, and subfreezing conditions were only a couple of thousand feet off the ground in northern Arkansas. That made it possible for snow in high elevation spots in the Ozark Mountains.

 

In the video: Snow was falling late on 12/02/2020 and early the next morning to the northwest of Fallsville (Newton County). The elevation was just anove 2,400 feet. The video is courtesy of Brian Emfinger via Twitter.
 

Near Ryker (Newton County), at an elevation of roughly 2,400 feet, 1.5 inches of snow was reported. About five miles southeast of Kingston (Madison County), an inch of snow was measured. A half inch to an inch of snow occurred a couple of miles northeast of Eula (Searcy County), to the northwest of Fallsville (Newton County), and to the southeast of Jasper (Newton County)..

Snow was even heavier in southwest Kansas and northwest Oklahoma. Six to more than twelve inches of powder piled up, with the largest accumulations near Meade, KS.

 

Heavy rain and heavy snow were noted from the central and southern Plains to the mid-South in the twenty four hour period ending at 600 am CST on 12/03/2020. One to three inches of rain dumped in southeast Oklahoma, southwest Arkansas, eastern Texas, and western Louisiana. Six to more than twelve inches of snow accumulated in southwest Kansas and northwest Oklahoma.
In the picture: Heavy rain and heavy snow were noted from the central and southern Plains to the mid-South in the twenty four hour period ending at 600 am CST on 12/03/2020. One to three inches of rain dumped in southeast Oklahoma, southwest Arkansas, eastern Texas, and western Louisiana. Six to more than twelve inches of snow accumulated in southwest Kansas and northwest Oklahoma.
 

Back at home, there was heavy rain in southwest Arkansas, with amounts over an inch at several places. Twenty four hour totals as of 600 am CST on the 3rd included 1.44 inches at Bogg Springs (Polk County), 1.29 inches at Mena (Polk County), 1.26 inches at Millwood Dam (Little River County), 1.18 inches at Texarkana (Miller County), 1.17 inches at Nashville (Howard County), and 1.06 inches at Fort Smith (Sebastian County). The southwest is where rain was most needed due to recent dryness in October and November and a developing drought.

Our storm system really ramped up as it headed toward the East Coast, becoming a full-fledged nor'easter by the 5th. A half foot to over a foot of snow blanketed the landscape from Massachusetts to Maine. Snow was blown around by 40 to 60 mph gusts. Power was knocked out to at least 200,000 households.

 

Since 1900 (through 2019), the temperature at Little Rock (Pulaski County) reached 70 degrees in December about twice a year.
In the picture: Since 1900 (through 2019), the temperature at Little Rock (Pulaski County) reached 70 degrees in December about twice a year.
 

Locally, it was plenty warm on the 9th and 10th, with high temperatures in the 60s and 70s. It was 72 and 75 degrees respectively at Little Rock (Pulaski County). On the latter day, it was 77 degrees at Harrison (Boone County) and 75 degrees at Fayetteville (Washington County). A few days later, it snowed at both places. There is more on that later.

 

Snow was occurring in northern and western Arkansas at 300 pm CST on 12/13/2020. There was widespread rain farther south and east. Temperatures ranged from the lower 30s in the north to the mid 40s in the east.
In the picture: Snow was occurring in northern and western Arkansas at 300 pm CST on 12/13/2020. There was widespread rain farther south and east. Temperatures ranged from the lower 30s in the north to the mid 40s in the east.
 

On the 11th, changes started coming. A storm system/cold front spread widespread rain across the region. Highs were generally in the 50s/60s. A brief lull followed on the 12th, and then it got interesting. As temperatures continued to cool, a new storm system was on the horizon in the southern Plains.

While it looked like a cold rain for most of us on the 13th, data showed a deep layer of below freezing air aloft over the Ozark Mountains, and good chances of snow. That's exactly what panned out.

 

In the video: Several inches of snow were along Highway 412 near Siloam Springs (Benton County) during the afternoon of 12/13/2020. The video is courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT).
 

Snow was in progress across the far northwest during the morning of the 13th, and flakes accumulated quickly. By the late morning/early afternoon, snow spread eastward from Rogers (Benton County) and Eureka Springs (Carroll County) to Harrison (Boone County), Jasper (Newton County), and Mountain Home (Baxter County).

As snow came down, conditions along area highways deteriorated. Many roads were slush or snow covered, and law enforcement reported dozens of accidents.

 

Accumulating snow created postcard moments at Harrison (Boone County) and Eureka Springs (Carroll County) on 12/13/2020. The photos are courtesy of Rebekah Hearn and J.W. Fultz via Twitter.
Snow at Harrison (Boone County)  |  Snow at Eureka Springs (Carroll County)
In the pictures: Accumulating snow created postcard moments at Harrison (Boone County) and Eureka Springs (Carroll County) on 12/13/2020. The photos are courtesy of Rebekah Hearn and J.W. Fultz via Twitter.
 

By the time the event ended, there was six to seven inches of snow near Busch (Carroll County) and southeast of Garfield (Benton County). Five to six inches of snow was reported at Gravette (Benton County), Holiday Island (Carroll County), southeast of Jasper (Newton County), Monte Ne (Benton County), Springdale (Benton and Washington Counties), and southeast of Snowball (Searcy County).

 

Estimated snowfall as of 700 am CST on 12/14/2020.
In the picture: Estimated snowfall as of 700 am CST on 12/14/2020.
 

In the higher elevations of the Ouachita Mountains of west central Arkansas, three inches of snow managed to accumulate north of Bryan (Scott County), with a couple of inches at Bogg Springs (Polk County), Mount Nebo (Yell County), and Queen Wilhelmina State Park (Polk County). At Mount Magazine (Logan County), there was half a foot of snow.

At Fayetteville Drake Field (Washington County), the official tally was 2.8 inches. Incredibly, this was the most snow at the site for any day since March 2, 2014. 

After dark on the 13th, rain eventually changed to snow in central sections of the state. Southwest of Morrilton (Conway County), 0.5 inch of snow was measured, with 0.1 inch at the North Little Rock Airport (Pulaski County).

 

Link of Interest
Snow on Satellite

 

Seventy two hour liquid precipitation through 600 am CST on the 14th was the most substantial over central and southern Arkansas. One to more than two inches was common, with a half inch to an inch and a half farther north.

 

A storm system in the southern Plains produced heavy snow in Oklahoma on 12/15/2020. The system encountered dry air in Arkansas, and snow was minimal. Moisture increased again east of the region, and this led to rain in the Tennessee Valley, and tons of snow toward colder air in New England.
In the picture: A storm system in the southern Plains produced heavy snow in Oklahoma on 12/15/2020. The system encountered dry air in Arkansas, and snow was minimal. Moisture increased again east of the region, and this led to rain in the Tennessee Valley, and tons of snow toward colder air in New England.
 

A couple of days later, there was more wintry weather just to the west. A robust storm system cranked out around ten inches of snow in Woodward, OK on the 15th, and just over three inches in Oklahoma City, OK. In Arkansas, while some snow was possible, the setup was not ideal. There was not enough moisture in the north, and it was too warm in the south. 

Once precipitation developed in the late afternoon and evening, it was not much. There was actually some thunder in the southeast, and small hail at DeWitt (Arkansas County). A dusting of snow was reported from Murfreesboro (Pike County) eastward to Hot Springs (Garland County), west Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Sheridan (Grant County). Light snow lingered into the wee hours of the 16th before moving out.

 

The storm system that brought four to eight inches of snow to Oklahoma on 12/15/2020 and three to six inches of snow to Indiana the next day unleashed one to more than three feet of powder in parts of the northeast.
In the picture: The storm system that brought four to eight inches of snow to Oklahoma on 12/15/2020 and three to six inches of snow to Indiana the next day unleashed one to more than three feet of powder in parts of the northeast.
 

The aforementioned system encountered a more saturated environment as it headed through the Ohio Valley toward New England. As this happened, the system turned into a snow machine on the 16th/17th. Up to four feet of powder piled up around Binghamton, NY, with two to three feet at Albany, NY, Caribou, ME, Concord, NH, Williamsport, PA, and Worcester, MA. In the New York City, NY area, eight to twelve inches of snow was measured. The official total at Philadelphia, PA was just shy of seven inches, which ended a 652 day streak with less than an inch of snow (starting on March 2, 2019).

There was some severe weather on the warm side of the system (toward the Gulf Coast). A tornado (rated EF2) was spawned just north of St. Petersburg, FL just before 300 pm CST on the 16th. The tornado tracked around thirteen miles toward Tampa, FL, and damaged or destroyed several buildings including a boat storage facility. Fortunately, no injuries occurred.

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed precipitation becoming widespread east of Arkansas as more moisture was encountered in the sixteen hour period ending at 400 am CST on 12/24/2020.
Radar at 1200 pm CST (12/23)  |  Radar at 400 pm CST (12/23)
Radar at 800 pm CST (12/23)  |  Radar at 1200 am CST (12/24)
Radar at 400 am CST (12/24)  |  Loop
In the pictures: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed precipitation becoming widespread east of Arkansas as more moisture was encountered in the sixteen hour period ending at 400 am CST on 12/24/2020.
 

As the holiday season neared, so did a cold front from the Plains. Moisture was limited ahead of the front as it passed through Arkansas on December 23rd, but a line of showers and scattered thunderstorms managed to develop in central and eastern sections of the state. Most major reporting stations had less than a quarter inch of rain. Abundant moisture was realized east of the region, and precipitation became widespread after the front crossed the Mississippi River.

 

The eastern United States had anything from heavy rain to severe weather and snow on 12/24/2020.
In the picture: The eastern United States had anything from heavy rain to severe weather and snow on 12/24/2020.
 

The atmosphere was saturated across the eastern United States on the 24th/25th, with a big mess from New England to Florida. There were areas of heavy to excessive rain, and some severe weather. Two to more than three inches of rain dumped in sections of New York and Pennsylvania southward through the Carolinas, Georgia. Alabama, and Mississippi. These same areas (including Florida) had instances of wind damage and isolated tornadoes.

Farther west, snow was prevalent from eastern Tennessee to eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, and along Lake Erie into western New York. Morristown, TN picked up just over four inches of snow. Charleston, WV had five to six inches, with close to seven inches at Pittsburgh, PA, and around ten inches of powder at Cleveland, OH.

 

A deep southerly flow aloft existed ahead of a storm system in south Texas at 600 pm CST on 12/31/2020. Abundant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico was driven northward, resulting in widespread precipitation.
In the picture: A deep southerly flow aloft existed ahead of a storm system in south Texas at 600 pm CST on 12/31/2020. Abundant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico was driven northward, resulting in widespread precipitation.
 

The month ended with a lot going on in the central United States. A powerful storm system in Texas brought a variety of precipitation types depending on the temperature during the last two days of 2020.

Temperatures were in the 60s/70s along the Gulf Coast (it felt like spring), and there was a potential of severe thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes. This did not turn into much, with isolated weak tornado damage around Corsicana, TX on the 30th, and twenty to thirty miles north and west of Macon, GA on January 1st. From west Texas to central Oklahoma, northern Missouri, and eastward to Ohio, it was cold enough for snow and ice.

 

Seventy two hour snow and ice accumulations as of 600 am CST 01/02/2020.
In the picture: Seventy two hour snow and ice accumulations as of 600 am CST 01/02/2021.
 

Two to more than six inch snow accumulations were common from Midland, TX to Oklahoma City, OK and Kansas City, MO. In parts of west Texas, including Big Spring, TX, there was more than a foot of powder. It was enough to shut down Interstates 10 and 20 temporarily. Hundreds of vehicles were stranded. Ice was a tenth to a half inch thick on exposed objects from Wichita, KS to Springfield, MO, St. Louis, MO, and Indianapolis, IN.

 

Winter weather, severe weather, and flood headlines were posted across the central United States at 1130 am CST on 12/31/2020.
In the picture: Winter weather, severe weather, and flood headlines were posted across the central United States at 1130 am CST on 12/31/2020.
 

In Arkansas, it was mostly rain given temperatures were above freezing in most areas. There were several inches of rain in central and southern sections of the state.

 

Seventy two hour rainfall as of 600 am CST on 01/01/2021.
In the picture: Seventy two hour rainfall as of 600 am CST on 01/01/2021.
 

Seventy two hour rainfall amounts through 600 am CST on January 1st included 4.86 inches at Monticello (Drew County), 4.10 inches at El Dorado (Union County). 3.97 inches at Mount Ida (Montgomery County). 3.79 inches at De Queen (Sevier County), 3.73 inches at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Texarkana (Miller County), 3.26 inches at Hot Springs (Garland County), and 3.05 inches at Little Rock (Pulaski County).

For the month, rainfall was still below average (by less than an inch) across the northern and central counties, and above average (by more than two inches in some cases) in the south.

 

Precipitation in December, 2020
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 2.89 3.24 -0.35 89%
Harrison (NC AR) 2.23 3.20 -0.97 70%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 4.12 4.77 -0.65 86%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 4.09 3.29 +0.80 124%
Little Rock (C AR) 4.77 4.97 -0.20 96%
West Memphis (EC AR) 5.60 5.42 +0.18 103%
Texarkana (SW AR) 6.99 5.05 +1.94 138%
El Dorado (SC AR) 7.62 5.18 +2.44 147%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 6.70 5.44 +1.26 123%

 

Any ice during this event was restricted to the higher elevations of the Ozark Mountains. Quarter to half inch ice accruals were reported at Compton, Cowell, west of Vendor, and at Western Grove (all in Newton County). Accruals from a tenth to quarter inch were reported near Beaver (Carroll County), Gateway (Benton County), and Kingston (Madison County),

 

Links of Interest
December 1-3, 2020 (widespread freeze/rain and light snow)
December 11-14, 2020 (turning colder/rain and snow)
December 15-16, 2020 (cold/some light snow)
December 23-25, 2020 (turning colder/not much rain/active to east)
December 30, 2020-January 2, 2021 (heavy rain/some ice and snow)

 

Additional December Details
 
For more details about December, 2020...go to the "Temperatures and Precipitation" section below.

 

Temperatures and Precipitation
Temperatures in December varied a lot, but ended up a little above average. Readings at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to right. December, 2020 Temperatures in North Little Rock

 

December, 2020 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was below average in the north, and above average in the south. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

To right, a look at precipitation across the state. December, 2020 Precipitation in Arkansas

 

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