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March, 2021 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
It was a ho hum March through the first two weeks, with not much to report. And then the usual spring pattern kicked in, and the weather went nuts. There were lots of tornadoes to our east, especially in Mississippi and Alabama. Massive flooding was noted in Nashville. Record snow was reported in the Rockies. In Arkansas, after some hail and rain at times, our big severe weather event (including tornadoes) was on the 27th. Temperatures cooled off to finish the month, with a freeze to begin April.

 

Record Temperatures
 
There were a couple of record high temperatures tied or broken on March 27th. Check out the records below.

 

Site Record High (Date of Occurrence)
Fayetteville 80 (03/27)
Hot Springs 83T (03/27)
Note: "T" means record was tied.

 

A Quiet First Two Weeks/An Active Finish/Record Snow to West/Lots of Tornadoes to East
 
The Polar Jet over the Great Lakes and New England tried to bring cooler air into Arkansas in mid-March. While it did turn cooler briefly in the northeast counties, the dominant Subtropical Jet kept it largely mild with storm systems driven across the southern United States.
In the picture: The Polar Jet over the Great Lakes and New England tried to bring cooler air into Arkansas in mid-March. While it did turn cooler briefly in the northeast counties, the dominant Subtropical Jet kept it largely mild with storm systems driven across the southern United States.
 

March did not exactly come in like a lion, with little in the way of severe weather (and no tornadoes) in Arkansas through the first two weeks. Unlike a brutally cold February, it was largely mild, with weather systems coming toward us from the west instead of the north. By the middle of the month, a large storm system was on the horizon in the Rockies.

 

A nearly stationary front separated very warm conditions (temperatures in the 70s to lower 80s) to its south from much cooler conditions (readings in the 50s) to the north at 400 pm CST on 03/12/2021. Areas of heavy rain developed along the north of the front.
In the picture: A nearly stationary front separated very warm conditions (temperatures in the 70s to lower 80s) to its south from much cooler conditions (readings in the 50s) to the north at 400 pm CST on 03/12/2021. Areas of heavy rain developed along the north of the front.
 

The system was preceded by a cold front that made it into Arkansas from Missouri. The front ended up stalling across the region on the 12th, with a thirty degree temperature difference across the front. At 400 pm CST, readings ranged from the 50s across the northern counties to the lower 80s in the southwest.

During the overnight hours of the 12th/early of the 13th, there were downpours along and north of the front, with the heaviest rain toward the Missouri border. In the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CST on the 13th, one to more than two inches of rain fell at Harrison (Boone County), Lead Hill (Boone County), Mammoth Spring (Fulton County), and Mountain Home (Baxter County).

 

Severe storm reports in the seventy two hour period ending at 700 am CDT on 03/15/2021. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
In the picture: Severe storm reports in the seventy two hour period ending at 700 am CDT on 03/15/2021. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
 

It was much more active to the west as the aforementioned Rockies system wobbled around in the mountains. A major snowstorm unfolded in portions of Colorado and Wyoming on the 13th/14th, with tornadoes in the Texas panhandle.

At least a dozen tornadoes were spawned between Amarillo, TX and Lubbock, TX, with the strongest of these (rated EF2) tracking seventeen miles from Happy, TX to Palo Duro Canyon, TX. The tornado was responsible for significant roof damage to several homes.

As this tornado was ongoing, a secondary satellite tornado spun up about five miles north of Happy, TX. Videos showed the tornadoes briefly occurring simultaneously. In addition to the tornadoes, up to baseball size hail was reported.

 

Forty eight hour snowfall through 700 am CDT on 03/16/2021.
In the picture: Forty eight hour snowfall through 700 am CDT on 03/16/2021.
 

Meanwhile, the snow came down big time in Denver, CO and Cheyenne, WY, with Blizzard Warnings in effect and major highways closed. At the former location, 27.1 inches of snow buried the landscape in two days, making it the fourth largest snowstorm in local weather history dating back to 1881. More than 2,000 flights were cancelled at Denver International Airport. At the latter location, a whopping 30.8 inches of powder was measured along with gusts exceeding 50 mph at times. It was within two inches of the two day record set in 1919.

Back in Arkansas, another round of showers and a few rumbles of thunder swept across the region during the afternoon/evening of the 14th and early on the 15th. By the time the whole event was over (from the 12th through the 15th), much of the northern half of the state received one to three inches of rain (and locally more). Quite a few locations in the south had less than a half inch of rain. 

 

The forecast indicated a moderate to high risk of severe weather from eastern Arkansas and northeast Louisiana to southwest Tennessee, much of Mississippi, and Alabama on 03/17/2021. Historical guidance (based on past events) from the Cooperative Institute for Precipitation Systems (CIPS) showed that severe storms were favored in the same areas, and maybe a little farther to the south. The forecast was courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center, and the guidance came from Saint Louis University.
Forecast from SPC (03/17)  |  CIPS Historical Guidance (03/17)
In the pictures: The forecast indicated a moderate to high risk of severe weather from eastern Arkansas and northeast Louisiana to southwest Tennessee, much of Mississippi, and Alabama on 03/17/2021. Historical guidance (based on past events) from the Cooperative Institute for Precipitation Systems (CIPS) showed that severe storms were favored in the same areas, and maybe a little farther to the south. The forecast was courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center, and the guidance came from Saint Louis University.
 

It looked ominous on March 17th. A strong storm system was incoming from the southern Plains, and a springlike environment (warmth/moisture) promoted the development of severe thunderstorms. It looked bad enough to warrant a high risk of severe weather from northeast Louisiana to Alabama. It was the first March high risk area issued by the Storm Prediction Center (in Norman, OK) since 2012.

 

 

The pond next to the police station in Sherwood (Pulaski County) rarely overflows, but it did during the morning of 03/17/2021. A deluge resulted in roughly 2.25 inches of rain, most of which fell in an hour. The photo is courtesy of Misty Raper.
In the picture: The pond next to the police station in Sherwood (Pulaski County) rarely overflows, but it did during the morning of 03/17/2021. A deluge resulted in roughly 2.25 inches of rain, most of which fell in an hour. The photo is courtesy of Misty Raper.
 

In Arkansas, the fireworks started early (during the predawn hours) on the 17th. Isolated storms unloaded large hail, including golf ball size hail just east of Scranton (Logan County), and quarter size hail at Atkins (Pope County) and Johnsville (Bradley County). After that, it turned into a bunch of heavy rain.

Two to more than three inches of rain dumped from Corning (Clay County) and Paragould (Greene County) to Jonesboro (Craighead County), Newport (Jackson County), and North Little Rock (Pulaski County). It came down so hard so fast that roads flooded on the southeast side of Jonesboro (Craighead County). Vehicles stalled in high water, and people had to be rescued. Several roads were closed. Water was also over roads in North Little Rock and Sherwood (both in Pulaski County). At the latter location, a pond near a police station overflowed, and there was water everywhere.

At Searcy (White County), lightning struck a clinic and caused damage to electronic equipment. Power was knocked out to the facility temporarily.

 

Severe weather headlines were in place across the mid-South (including portions of Arkansas) at 345 pm CDT on 03/17/2021.
In the picture: Severe weather headlines were in place across the mid-South (including portions of Arkansas) at 345 pm CDT on 03/17/2021.
 

Once the rain let up, isolated severe storms popped up in the afternoon. In Missouri, a weak tornado (rated EF1) to the southwest of Springfield, MO destroyed some outbuildings. Hail to the size of hen eggs was reported.

In southeast Arkansas, rotation ramped up in one storm, and a Tornado Warning was disseminated at 430 pm CDT for eastern Drew and southern Desha Counties. At 437 pm CDT, a brief tornado (rated EF0) was witnessed in a farm field about a mile southeast of McGehee (Desha County). It was the first tornado of 2021 in the state.

 

In the video: A tornado was captured by drone near Silas, AL on 03/17/2021. The video is courtesy of Brian Emfinger via Twitter.
 

But the worst of the event was to the southeast of the region in Alabama and Mississippi. There was no rain in the morning to contaminate the setup. Storms tapped into air that simmered all day, and was just right for tornadoes.

At least two dozen tornadoes (given preliminary ratings of EF0 to EF2) were counted from southern Mississippi into central Alabama. The strongest of these left swaths of damage from Strengthford, MS to northwest of Waynesboro, MS (a 13 mile track), from east of Waynesboro, MS to Putnam, AL (a 35 mile track), and between Selma, AL and Clanton, AL (two tornadoes with 5 to 6 mile tracks).

Here at home, it turned colder during the overnight hours of the 17th/early on the 18th. Temperatures dropped into the 30s and 40s. There was enough moisture to squeeze out some snowflakes, with up to two inches of snow in southwest Missouri, and a dusting at a few high elevation spots in the Ozark Mountains.

 

The surface map showed a strengthening storm system ("L") in Arkansas interacting with a warm front lifting to the north toward the Tennessee Valley at 100 pm CDT on 03/25/2021. Temperatures (dashed black lines) south of the warm front were in the 70s/80s, and it was very moist with mid 60s or higher dewpoints (darker green shading). This warm/humid environment fueled and energized severe thunderstorms during the afternoon and evening.
In the picture: The surface map showed a strengthening storm system ("L") in Arkansas interacting with a warm front lifting to the north toward the Tennessee Valley at 100 pm CDT on 03/25/2021. Temperatures (dashed black lines) south of the warm front were in the 70s/80s, and it was very moist with mid 60s or higher dewpoints (darker green shading). This warm/humid environment fueled and energized severe thunderstorms during the afternoon and evening.
 

It was was repeat performance on March 25th. Just like the 17th, there was another high risk of severe storms, with a tornado outbreak expected just to the east of Arkansas. We dealt with hail from southwest into central portions of the state from the evening of the 24th into the wee hours of the 25th. Golf ball size hail was reported near Dierks (Howard County), with half dollar size stones at Foreman (Little River County) and west of Lono (Hot Spring County). After the hail, here came areas of heavy rain.

Before the hailstorms in Arkansas (earlier on the 24th), there were a few tornadoes in northern and central Texas. Tornadoes were witnessed east of Hamilton, TX, northeast of Cranfills Gap, TX, and southeast of Roosevelt, TX. Hail bigger than baseballs pelted Haslet, TX and Junction, TX.

In Centreville, MS, a saturated ground made it easy for thunderstorm winds to uproot a tree onto a mobile home. A woman inside was killed.

 

Supercells (storms with rotating updrafts) traveled long distances from Alabama into Georgia on 03/25/2021. One supercell spawned several tornadoes, and was responsible for significant structural damage on the south side of Birmingham, AL around 135 pm CDT and near Ohatchee, AL between 230 pm and 300 pm CDT.
In the pictures: Supercells (storms with rotating updrafts) traveled long distances from Alabama into Georgia on 03/25/2021. One supercell spawned several tornadoes, and was responsible for significant structural damage on the south side of Birmingham, AL around 135 pm CDT and near Ohatchee, AL between 230 pm and 300 pm CDT.
 

As far as the outbreak, the first tornado (rated EF3) was confirmed about fifteen miles south of Tuscaloosa, AL around 1215 pm CDT on the 25th. By 135 pm CDT, the parent storm and a second tornado (rated EF3) were destroying homes about ten miles southeast of Birmingham, AL. The latter tornado lasted almost seventy minutes and tracked fifty miles.

 

In the video: Damage was extensive following a tornado at Ohatchee, AL on 03/25/2021. The video is courtesy of Brian Emfinger via Twitter.
 

About an hour later, the storm wreaked havoc (another tornado/rated EF3) in Ohatchee, AL, with substantial property damage reported and at least five fatalities.

Later in the afternoon (between 400 pm and 600 pm CDT), yet another storm and associated tornado (rated EF3) tore an eighty mile swath through areas near Centreville, AL, Columbiana, AL, and Calera, AL. Farther south, one more storm cranked out two tornadoes between 1000 pm CDT on the 25th and 1230 am CDT on the 26th. The first tornado (rated EF2) roughed up homes around Malone, AL and Motley, AL (a twenty eight mile track). Tornado number two (rated EF4) caused significant damage in Newnan, GA (a thirty nine mile track), with another death noted.

In central Tennessee, a hailstorm went right through the heart of Nashville, TN. Hail ranged in size from nickels to ping pong balls.

 

Temperatures (shaded) were well into the 70s to lower 80s (warm), and dewpoints (dashed lines) were in the mid and upper 60s (moist) across southern and eastern Arkansas at 400 pm CDT on 03/27/2021. Given plenty of warmth/moisture in place, the atmosphere was primed for thunderstorm development.
In the picture: Temperatures (shaded) were well into the 70s to lower 80s (warm), and dewpoints (dashed lines) were in the mid and upper 60s (moist) across southern and eastern Arkansas at 400 pm CDT on 03/27/2021. Given plenty of warmth/moisture in place, the atmosphere was primed for thunderstorm development.
 

On the 27th, it was our turn. It sure felt like tornadoes by 400 pm CDT, with temperatures well into the 70s to lower 80s (warm) in southern and eastern Arkansas. Dewpoints were in the mid and upper 60s (moist). By that time, thunderstorms were just starting to flare up in the south/east. From there, storms took off and continued well into the evening.

 

In the video: The satellite showed rapid thunderstorm development in southern and eastern Arkansas during the afternoon and evening of 03/27/2021. There were V-shaped signatures at times in the imagery, which indicated wind/clouds in upper levels of the atmosphere splitting and going around powerful storm updrafts. This is an indicator of severe weather in progress.
 

Between 530 pm and 730 pm CDT, there was three inch diameter hail (slightly larger than baseballs) at South Bend (Lonoke County), baseball size hail at Gurdon and Whelen Springs (both in Clark County), lime size hail at Newport (Jackson County) and Stuttgart (Arkansas County), golf ball size hail at Galloway (Pulaski County), and half dollar size hail at Furlow (Lonoke County). Golf balls came down at Marianna (Lee County) close to 800 pm CDT, and ping pong balls pelted Camden (Ouachita County) at 900 pm CDT.

Trees were downed by thunderstorm winds northwest of Fouke (Miller County), near Lewisville (Lafayette County), Princeton (Dallas County), Stephens (Ouachita County), and Woodberry (Calhoun County).

 

Two supercells (storms with rotating updrafts) were monitored closely in southeast Arkansas at 840 pm CDT on 03/27/2021. The storms were just west of DeWitt (Arkansas County) and south of Star City (Lincoln County). Strong rotation was noted in both storms.
Reflectivity at 840 pm CDT (03/27)  |  Storm Relative Velocity at 840 pm CDT (03/27)
In the pictures: Two supercells (storms with rotating updrafts) were monitored closely in southeast Arkansas at 840 pm CDT on 03/27/2021. The storms were just west of DeWitt (Arkansas County) and south of Star City (Lincoln County). Strong rotation was noted in both storms.
 

Two storms in the southeast were monitored closely as both exhibited strong rotation. One of the storms dropped a tornado (rated EF2/19 mile track) from Reydell (Jefferson County) to four miles east-southeast of DeWitt (Arkansas County). The tornado lasted for a half hour (823 pm to 854 pm CDT)./p>

Witnesses reported the tornado, and video was captured and shared through social media. The National Weather Service visited the affected area, with the most damage at a rice production plant. Metal was torn off of buildings and grain bins, a roof collapsed, and a shop was destroyed. Thirty or so utility poles were snapped.

 

Two tornadoes (both rated EF2) were confirmed in the Little Rock County Warning Area on 03/27/2021. The tornadoes affected portions of Arkansas, Drew, and Jefferson Counties.
DeWitt Tornado  |  Monticello Tornado
Photo of Shop Building Destroyed/Gone South of DeWitt (Arkansas County)
Photo of Damaged Pickup Trucks in a Field North of Monticello (Drew County)
In the pictures: Two tornadoes (both rated EF2) were confirmed in the Little Rock County Warning Area on 03/27/2021. The tornadoes affected portions of Arkansas, Drew, and Jefferson Counties.
 

Just before 1030 pm CDT, a short-lived tornado (rated EF2) hit a few miles north of Monticello (Drew County). Several structures had roof damage, and multiple trucks at a construction company were tossed into a nearby field. Big trees were also uprooted.

 

Link of Interest
Damage Survey Information

 

Elsewhere, two weak tornadoes (both rated EF0) were identified six to seven miles west-southwest of Bassett (Mississippi County) and two to three miles west of Bassett (Mississippi County). The tornadoes mostly caused tree and power pole damage and blew over a semi tractor trailer on Interstate 55. Two other weak tornadoes (both rated EF1) were counted near Marie and Osceola (both in Mississippi County). More power poles were splintered, a mobile home was heavily damaged, and a storage building was dismantled. The latter tornado crossed the Mississippi River into Lauderdale County, TN and ripped apart a barn. An additional weak tornado (rated EF0) touched down briefly about six miles north of Parkin (Cross County).

In all, there were seven tornadoes confirmed in Arkansas (and eight in 2021 given the tornado in Desha County on March 17th).

There were also a half dozen or so tornadoes (rated EF1/EF2) from northeast Texas into northwest Louisiana between 600 pm and 900 pm CDT. The tornadoes toppled or snapped trees, roughed up roofs on homes, and destroyed outbuildings and a mobile home.

 

Twenty four hour rainfall through 400 pm CDT on 03/28/2021.
In the picture: Twenty four hour rainfall through 400 pm CDT on 03/28/2021.
 

There was not a lot of rain, at least not locally. One to two inches of precipitation and locally over three inches came down in areas south and east of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Amounts exceeded two inches at Camden (Ouachita County), Des Arc (Prairie County), Lewisville (Lafayette County), and Monticello (Drew County). Fortunately, any flash flooding was spotty.

 

Minor flooding was in progress along the Black, Cache, Ouachita, and lower White Rivers in southern and eastern Arkansas on 03/28/2021.
In the picture: Minor flooding was in progress along the Black, Cache, Ouachita, and lower White Rivers in southern and eastern Arkansas on 03/28/2021.
 

Rain from this event and prior episodes in March kept several tributaries elevated in southern and eastern Arkansas including the Black, Cache, Ouachita, and lower White Rivers. Flooding was generally minor. The situation was much more dire in Tennessee.

 

In the picture: By the time rain was over, 7.09 inches of liquid was measured at Nashville, TN on March 27-28, 2021. This was the second highest two-day total in recorded history locally.
 

A little more than seven inches of rain fell at Nashville, TN in two days (March 27th/28th), with water into homes and businesses and vehicles submerged. At least 130 people had to be rescued, and at least four people were killed. Interstate 24 was shut down southeast of the city during the morning of the 28th due to flooding. Several area rivers were expected to experience Top 5 crests. It was somewhat reminiscent of the catastrophic flood event in early May, 2010.

 

Rainfall in March, 2021. It was very wet in areas east of Arkansas, ten to fifteen inches of precipitation was measured.
In the picture: Rainfall in March, 2021. It was very wet in areas east of Arkansas, ten to fifteen inches of precipitation was measured.
 

The month finished with a northwest wind flow aloft driving a cold front through Arkansas from Canada. There was another one to two inches of rain in the south/east at Blytheville (Mississippi County), Cane Creek State Park (Lincoln County), El Dorado (Union County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Marianna (Lee County), and Portland (Ashley County).

For the month, it was wetter than usual in the north and east, and somewhat dry at some locales in the west. In the north/east, March rainfall totals were above average by more than an inch and a half at Harrison (Boone County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County).

 

Precipitation in March, 2021
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 3.35 3.95 -0.60 85%
Harrison (NC AR) 6.84 3.79 +3.05 180%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 6.17 4.50 +1.67 137%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 3.61 3.85 -0.24 94%
Little Rock (C AR) 4.58 4.68 -0.10 98%
West Memphis (EC AR) 8.33 4.94 +3.39 169%
Texarkana (SW AR) 5.22 4.20 +1.02 124%
El Dorado (SC AR) 4.61 4.75 -0.14 97%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 5.29 5.40 -0.11 98%

 

Rain was excessive (ten to fifteen inches) to the east of Arkansas from the Tennessee Valley into Mississippi, Alabama, and northern Georgia.

 

A freeze and widespread frost were expected in parts of northern and central Arkansas with low temperatures in the 20s/30s to begin April, 2021.
In the pictures: A freeze and widespread frost were expected in parts of northern and central Arkansas with low temperatures in the 20s/30s to begin April, 2021.
 

By the morning of the 31st, temperatures behind the front dipped into the 40s across the northern and central counties. Dewpoints fell into the teens and 20s (very dry). Leftover rain falling into this dry air created additional cooling (through evaporation), and sleet pellets formed. In the higher elevations of the north, there were a few snowflakes reported.

Heading into the the first couple of days of April, at or slightly below freezing temperatures were in the forecast. Widespread frost was also expected.

 

Links of Interest
March 12-15, 2021 (areas of heavy rain/active to the west)
March 17, 2021 (severe storms/heavy rain)
March 24-25, 2021 (severe storms/heavy rain)
March 27, 2021 (severe storms/heavy rain)
March 30-31, 2021 (isolated severe storms/turning colder)

 

Additional March Details
 
For more details about March, 2021...go to the "Temperatures and Precipitation" section below.

 

Temperatures and Precipitation
Temperatures were above average in March. Readings at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to right. March, 2021 Temperatures in North Little Rock

 

March, 2021 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was at/above average in northern and eastern Arkansas, and below average in parts of the west. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

To right, a look at precipitation across the state. March, 2021 Precipitation in Arkansas

 

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