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March, 2019 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
After seven consecutive months of above average precipitation in Arkansas, rain was mostly below normal in March. A lack of moisture coupled with colder than usual conditions kept severe weather from getting out of hand (only three weak tornadoes on the 9th). Rivers in the east were high to begin the month, but slowly receded in the last two weeks.

 

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

 

Site Record High (Date of Occurrence)
Batesville 17 (03/05)
Fayetteville 8 (03/05), 12 (03/06)
Fort Smith 16T (03/05)
North Little Rock 19 (03/05)
Texarkana 24T (03/05)
Note: "T" means record was tied.

 

A Lack of Rain/Colder Than Usual/Limited Severe Weather
 
A mild Pacific flow in late February, 2019 was replaced with a cold Arctic flow to begin March. That resulted in colder temperatures across Arkansas.
In the picture: A mild Pacific flow in late February, 2019 was replaced with a cold Arctic flow to begin March. That resulted in colder temperatures across Arkansas.
 

The writing was on the wall heading into early March. The pattern was changing, and colder air was coming. Combine that with a storm system tracking across the southern United States, and there was at least some chance of snow in Arkansas.

Initially, it was a cold rain locally during the predawn hours of the 3rd. Moisture was most abundant near the system along the Gulf Coast, so that is where rain was heaviest (southern sections of the state).

 

It felt like winter in Arkansas during the afternoon of 03/03/2019. Temperatures were in the 20s and 30s in most areas. It was more like spring across the southeast states with readings in the 60s/70s.
In the picture: It felt like winter in Arkansas during the afternoon of 03/03/2019. Temperatures were in the 20s and 30s in most areas. It was more like spring across the southeast states with readings in the 60s/70s.
 

In the Ozark Mountains of the northwest, it was snowing by daybreak. At 700 am CST, light snow was reported at Fayetteville (Washington County) and Harrison (Boone County). Temperatures were in the mid and upper 20s. However, given less than a tenth of an inch of liquid to make flakes, the most that accumulated in any spot was a half inch. Even so, some roads became partially snow covered. Meanwhile, it was much warmer over the southeast states. Afternoon readings were in the 60s and 70s, and the atmosphere had plenty of energy to support severe thunderstorms. 

 

There were numerous reports of severe weather across the southeast United States in the twenty four hour period ending at 600 am CST on 03/04/2019. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
In the picture: There were numerous reports of severe weather across the southeast United States in the twenty four hour period ending at 600 am CST on 03/04/2019. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
 

There were over three dozen reports of tornadoes, with most of these in Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida panhandle. The most devastating tornado affected Lee County, AL.

From south of Opelika, AL to Smiths Station, AL (both in Lee County), at least 23 fatalities were reported. Damage was extensive, with the tornado given an EF4 rating by the National Weather Service in Birmingham, AL. Across the country, it was the first tornado of at least this magnitude since April, 2017. It was the deadliest tornado since the EF5 monster that ripped through Moore, OK and killed 24 people in May, 2013. Unfortunately, the story didn't end in Alabama. The tornado crossed into Georgia, and eventually tore through the town of Talbotton, GA (30 miles northeast of Columbus, GA). Homes and businesses were leveled. The tornado covered a whopping 69 miles before finally dissipating!

 

 

Temperatures were in the single digits and teens across much of northern Arkansas at 400 am CST on 03/04/2019. Wind chill index values were below zero in parts of the northwest.
Temperatures at 400 am CST (03/04)  |   Wind Chills at 400 am CST (03/04)
In the pictures: Temperatures were in the single digits and teens across much of northern Arkansas at 400 am CST on 03/04/2019. Wind chill index values were below zero in parts of the northwest.
 

Here at home, Arctic high pressure began to settle over the region from the Plains early on the 4th. At 400 am CST, it was 7 degrees at Bentonville and Rogers, and 8 degrees at Siloam Springs (all in Benton County). Wind chill index values at these sites were between 5 and 10 degrees below zero (north wind at 10 to 15 mph). The sites reported light snow/flurries, with a dusting of snow resulting. The morning low temperature at Kingston (Madison County) was 3 degrees, and 4 degrees at Compton (Newton County) and Winslow (Washington County). At Little Rock (Pulaski County), it was 19 degrees. This was as cold as it had been all winter.

Highs on the 4th were in the 20s and 30s. The mercury topped out at 33 degrees at North Little Rock (Pulaski County), which tied a record cold high for the day. At Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), it was only 31 degrees, which was the fifth coldest day in March locally (records go back to 1883).

 

There was a slight risk of severe weather in much of Arkansas on 03/09/2019, with an enhanced risk in counties along the Mississippi River and adjacent areas to the east of the state. The forecast was courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
In the picture: There was a slight risk of severe weather in much of Arkansas on 03/09/2019, with an enhanced risk in counties along the Mississippi River and adjacent areas to the east of the state. The forecast was courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). 
 

It was a little warmer locally by the 9th, and there was some potential of severe weather. Even so, the timing of this event was not quite right. Thunderstorms were expected to roll through during the morning, and would be short on energy given that peak heating usually occurs in the afternoon. Taking this into account, there was only a slight risk of severe storms across much of Arkansas. Farther east where temperatures would have time to warm up, there was an enhanced risk.

 

 

Simulated radar showed lines (or line segments) of thunderstorms moving quickly eastward across Arkansas during the morning and early afternoon of 03/09/2019.
Simulated Radar at 600 am CST (03/09)  |  Simulated Radar at 800 am CST (03/09)
Simulated Radar at 1000 am CST (03/09)  |  Simulated Radar at 1200 pm CST (03/09)
Simulated Radar at 200 pm CST (03/09)  |   Loop
In the pictures: Simulated radar showed lines (or line segments) of thunderstorms moving quickly eastward across Arkansas during the morning and early afternoon of 03/09/2019.
 

When storms eventually fired up, they moved quickly. A boatload of wind aloft drove storms to the east/northeast at 50 to 60 mph or more. When this happens, wind damage becomes a concern. In this case, there were reports of damaging winds mainly between 700 am and 1100 am CST. Sheds and outbuildings were dismantled in and around Scranton (Logan County). A damage survey concluded that gusts were between 80 and 90 mph. Trees were downed in Knoxville and Lamar (both in Johnson County). A shed was blown onto a car just north of Dover (Pope County). Chicken houses were roughed up at Athens (Howard County). A tractor shed was heavily damaged at Caddo Gap (Montgomery County). Three cars were crushed by a tree in Conway (Faulkner County). A 60 mph gust was estimated at Paris (Logan County), with a 58 mph gust at Russellville (Pope County).

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed strong rotation just northwest of Keo (Lonoke County) at 1030 am CST on 03/09/2019. A Tornado Warning was in effect at the time.
In the picture: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed strong rotation just northwest of Keo (Lonoke County) at 1030 am CST on 03/09/2019. A Tornado Warning was in effect at the time.
 

Strong rotation was indicated by the WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) at times, especially when storms tracked into central sections of the state. When rotation was detected, it was generally brief.

 

 

A weak tornado (rated EF1) was confirmed in portions of Pulaski and Lonoke Counties during the morning of 03/09/2019.
In the picture: A weak tornado (rated EF1) was confirmed in portions of Pulaski and Lonoke Counties during the morning of 03/09/2019.
 

A weak tornado (rated EF1) was spawned from Estes (Pulaski County) to around Toltec (Lonoke County) between 1024 am to 1033 am CST. Mobile homes and tractor sheds were damaged or destroyed, with two injuries reported.

 

Mobile homes and tractor sheds were damaged or destroyed and trees were uprooted by a weak tornado (rated EF1) between Estes (Pulaski County) and Toltec (Lonoke County) on 03/09/2019. The first two photos are courtesy of John Robinson.
Tractor Shed Heavily Damaged Near Estes (Pulaski County)
Trees were Downed on Highway 161 Near Estes (Pulaski County)
Mobile Home Destroyed Southwest of Toltec (Lonoke County)
In the pictures: Mobile homes and tractor sheds were damaged or destroyed and trees were uprooted by a weak tornado (rated EF1) between Estes (Pulaski County) and Toltec (Lonoke County) on 03/09/2019. The first two photos are courtesy of John Robinson.
 

Two other weak tornadoes (rated EF1) tore through rural locations south of Carlisle (Lonoke County) and northwest of Slovak (Prairie County). Both tornadoes were captured on video by local residents. Roofs of a few farm and metal buildings were partially removed, and power poles were snapped.

 

Links of Interest
Video of Slovak (Prairie County) Tornado (courtesy of Stephanie Prislovsky via Twitter)
Damage Survey Information

 

A huge storm system ("L") was swirling over northern Kansas at 728 pm CDT on 03/13/2019. East of the system, showers and thunderstorms were ongoing in Arkansas from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Mississippi River. North and west of the system, snow was falling from Colorado to the Dakotas.
In the picture: A huge storm system ("L") was swirling over northern Kansas at 728 pm CDT on 03/13/2019. East of the system, showers and thunderstorms were ongoing in Arkansas from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Mississippi River. North and west of the system, snow was falling from Colorado to the Dakotas.
 

On the 13th, a massive storm system developed in eastern Colorado. The system bombed out (rapidly intensified), with its central pressure plummeting more than 24 millibars in 24 hours. As this happened, records were broken.

 

 

In the picture: The pressure at Dodge City, KS bottomed out at the lowest level in more than a century on 03/13/2019.
 

The pressure at Dodge City, KS dropped to 974.6 millibars, which was the lowest pressure since 1900 locally. It appears an all-time low pressure mark was established for the state of Colorado at La Junta, CO (971.7 mb).

Surrounding such an intense system, there were a variety of weather headlines posted. Snow and wind led to Blizzard Warnings from Colorado to the Dakotas. Winds gusted more than 70 mph at times in these areas, creating whiteout conditions. Interstates 25, 70, 80, and 90 were a few of the major highways shut down in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.  A 97 mph gust was measured in Colorado Springs, CO, with a 103 mph gust at Pine Springs, TX. Twenty six rail cars were blown off of a bridge near Logan, NM. No injuries were reported.

 

A Tornado Watch was issued for parts of southern and eastern Arkansas during the morning of 03/14/2019.
In the picture: A Tornado Watch was issued for parts of southern and eastern Arkansas during the morning of 03/14/2019.
 

In Arkansas, it was windy as well. Gusts topped 40 mph in places on the 13th and 14th. Outside of the wind, there was some severe weather early on the 14th.

Storms started developing in southwest sections of the state around 400 am CDT. Trees were toppled near Bradley (Lafayette County) and Magnolia (Columbia County). Just after 600 am CDT, storms popped up in the northeast. A 64 mph gust was measured at Jonesboro (Craighead County). A utility pole was snapped and power lines were downed.

Later in the afternoon, severe weather was more widespread from Illinois and Michigan southward through the Ohio Valley to Mississippi and Alabama. There were almost two hundred reports of wind and hail, and at least three dozen reports of tornadoes (mostly weak). One tornado (rated EF2) nearly missed the National Weather Service building in Paducah, KY.

 

Forty eight hour precipitation through 1000 am CDT on 03/14/2019.
In the picture: Forty eight hour precipitation through 1000 am CDT on 03/14/2019.
 

As far as rainfall around here, one to more than two inch amounts were noted across the southern and eastern counties in the forty eight hour period through 1000 am CDT on the 14th. Totals were over two inches at Beedeville (Jackson County), Blytheville (Mississippi County), Cane Creek State Park (Lincoln County), El Dorado (Union County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Marianna (Lee County), Paragould (Greene County), Pocahontas (Randolph County), Stuttgart (Arkansas County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County).

It is no wonder that monthly amounts were a little above average in parts of the south/east, including El Dorado (Union County) and West Memphis (Crittenden County). Otherwise, liquid was mostly below average, and more than an inch subpar at Harrison (Boone County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Texarkana (Miller County).

 

Precipitation in March, 2019
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 4.32 3.95 +0.37 109%
Harrison (NC AR) 2.60 3.79 -1.19 69%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 4.44 4.50 -0.06 99%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 2.86 3.85 -0.99 74%
Little Rock (C AR) 3.32 4.68 -1.36 71%
West Memphis (EC AR) 5.43 4.94 +0.49 110%
Texarkana (SW AR) 2.54 4.20 -1.66 60%
El Dorado (SC AR) 4.94 4.75 +0.19 104%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 4.62 5.40 -0.78 86%

 

Rivers were high in southern and eastern Arkansas on 03/14/2019.
In the picture: Rivers were high in southern and eastern Arkansas on 03/14/2019.
 

The rain did not help the situation along area rivers that were elevated to overflowing since December, 2018. Minor to moderate flooding continued on the Black, Cache, Ouachita, and lower White Rivers.

 

Soil moisture was well above average (30 to 70 percent) in many areas east of the Rockies on 03/18/2019.
In the picture: Soil moisture was well above average (30 to 70 percent) in many areas east of the Rockies on 03/18/2019.
 

In Nebraska, conditions were more dire. There was record snowfall (27 inches) in February at Omaha, NE. Soil moisture levels were extreme due to above average precipitation and melting snow. It was also a Top 10 cold February. This led to ice jams (and water backing up) along tributaries. Throw in two to more than three inches of rain during this event in parts of the state, and now you have a huge problem.

 

In the picture: Employees at the National Weather Service (NWS) in Omaha, NE teamed up with colleagues at NWS Hastings, NE to handle record setting flooding across the state on 03/16/2019.
 

Flooding became widespread, with record crests on several rivers. Whole towns were swallowed by rising water. The Governor called it one of the worst natural disasters in the state's history. Water surrounded the National Weather Service building in Valley, NE (just west of Omaha, NE). Employees were forced to evacuate, and relocated to Hastings, NE to continue forecast and warning operations.

 

Dewpoint temperatures over 60 degrees F (shaded) surged into Arkansas from the southwest ahead of a cold front on 03/24/2019. This indicated an increase in moisture.
Surface Map at 700 am CDT (03/24)  |  Surface Map at 100 pm CDT (03/24)
Surface Map at 700 pm CDT (03/24)  |  Loop
In the pictures: Dewpoint temperatures over 60 degrees F (shaded) surged into Arkansas from the southwest ahead of a cold front on 03/24/2019. This indicated an increase in moisture.
 

Rain slowed down a bit heading into the latter half of March. From the 15th through the 23rd, there was less than a quarter of an inch of precipitation across much of Arkansas. This allowed water levels on tributaries to slowly recede. There were spotty downpours expected on the 24th as a cold front push into the area from the northwest, but hail was a bigger worry.

 

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) highlighted an area to the west of Little Rock (Pulaski County) where severe weather was most likely during the evening of 03/24/2019 (image to left). By 708 pm CDT, scattered strong to severe storms were developing in the area (image to right).
In the pictures: The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) highlighted an area to the west of Little Rock (Pulaski County) where severe weather was most likely during the evening of 03/24/2019 (image to left). By 708 pm CDT, scattered strong to severe storms were developing in the area (image to right).
 

As rising air (updrafts) carried moisture skyward, plenty of dry air was encountered overhead. Evaporation occurred initially, with rapid cooling and ice to follow. Between 600 pm and 700 pm CDT, storms in eastern Oklahoma were producing very large hail. Baseball size stones were reported just southeast of Poteau, OK and at Howe, OK.

 

In the picture: Quarter to golf ball size hail was reported at Pencil Bluff (Montgomery County) during the evening of 03/24/2019. The photo is courtesy of Brian Emfinger via Twitter.
 

In Arkansas, golf ball size hail pelted West Fork (Washington County), Combs, Crosses, and Pettigrew (all in Madison County), and just southwest of Hartford (Sebastian County). A few stones up to golf ball size were also observed at Pencil Bluff (Montgomery County). There was half dollar size hail at Waldron (Scott County), and quarter size hail northwest of Mena (Polk County), at Oden (Montgomery County), and near Bee Branch (Van Buren County).

 

Links of Interest
March 3-4, 2019 (turning colder/severe storms to east)
March 9, 2019 (severe storms)
March 13-14, 2019 (windy/heavy rain/spotty severe storms)
March 24, 2019 (severe storms)

 

Additional March Details
 
For more details about March, 2019...go to the "Temperatures and Precipitation" section below.

 

Temperatures and Precipitation
Temperatures were below average in March. Readings at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to right. March, 2019 Temperatures in North Little Rock

 

March, 2019 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was mostly below average in March, but above average in parts of southern Arkansas. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

To right, a look at precipitation across the state. March, 2019 Precipitation in Arkansas

 

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