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May, 2018 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
Summer started early in Arkansas. It was a record warm May, and widespread rain became  cloudbursts here and there. Severe weather and flash flooding were spotty. Only two tornadoes were reported.

 

Record Temperatures
 
There were numerous high temperatures tied or broken in May. Check out the records below.

 

Site Record High (Date of Occurrence)
Batesville 87 (05/08), 89 (05/09), 87 (05/10), 90 (05/13), 92 (05/14), 91 (05/19)
Fayetteville 88 (05/07), 87T (05/09)
Fort Smith 92, (05/07), 92 (05/09)
Hot Springs 90 (05/08), 92 (05/14)
Jonesboro 95 (05/14), 94T (05/20)
Little Rock 91 (05/08)
Monticello 90 (05/07), 91 (05/08), 90T (05/09), 93 (05/14)
Mount Ida 90 (05/07), 91 (05/20)
Stuttgart 91 (05/08), 90T (05/09), 91 (05/12), 92 (05/13), 93 (05/14), 91 (05/16), 93 (05/30)
Note: "T" means record was tied.

 

Record Warmth/Spotty Severe Weather and Flooding/Not Enough Rain
 

Following the third coolest April on record, it was a very warm May. Statewide, average temperatures were roughly six degrees above normal. This made it the warmest May on record in Arkansas (eclipsing the previous record in 1896 by half a degree).

 

Record Warm Mays in Arkansas
Year Avg Temp +/-
2018 74.8° +6.1°
1896 74.2° +5.5°
1962 73.9° +5.2°
1987 73.2° +4.5°
2012 73.2° +4.5°
1902 73.0° +4.3°
1899 72.7° +4.0°
1998 72.7° +4.0°
1959 72.3° +3.6°
1991 72.3° +3.6°
1996 72.3° +3.6°

 

In Little Rock (Pulaski County), high temperatures reached at least 90 degrees on nine days. Readings at night dipped into the 50s only three times (otherwise, they were in the 60s/70s). By comparison, in 2017 (a more typical May), there were no 90 degree days and nineteen nights with lows in the 40s/50s.

A summer pattern evolved, with widespread precipitation becoming hit and miss. The most appreciable rain occurred in the north, and this happened mostly early in the month.

 

A storm system ("L") tracked from the southern Rockies through the central Plains toward the upper Midwest in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 pm CDT on 05/03/2018.
500 mb Map at 700 pm CDT (05/02)  |  500 mb Map at 100 am CDT (05/03)
500 mb Map at 700 am CDT (05/03)  |  500 mb Map at 100 pm CDT (05/03)
500 mb Map at 700 pm CDT (05/03)  |  Loop
In the pictures: A storm system ("L") tracked from the southern Rockies through the central Plains toward the upper Midwest in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 pm CDT on 05/03/2018.
 

The rain in early May was courtesy of a large storm system from the southwest United States. The system brought the first tornadoes of the year to Oklahoma and Kansas. Most severe weather was expected to bypass Arkansas to the north and west, but there was at least some chance of severe storms on the 3rd. 

During the predawn hours, a line of storms moved quickly (more than 50 mph at times) across the northern counties, and stayed close to the Missouri border. Just southeast of Flippin (Marion County), straight-line wind gusts reaching at least 60 mph damaged roofs and downed trees and power lines. Thirty to forty trees were toppled at Elizabeth (Fulton County), and a mobile home was flipped at Gepp (Fulton County). Three people were inside the structure, but were not injured.

Later in the day, another round of storms arrived from the west. Just after 100 pm CDT, a weak tornado (EF1) was produced a few miles northwest of Branch (Franklin County). Along its 9 to 10 mile track, the tornado tore up a couple of chicken houses and destroyed outbuildings.

 

Thirty six hour rainfall through 100 am CDT on 05/04/2018.
In the picture: Thirty six hour rainfall through 100 am CDT on 05/04/2018.
 

Precipitation during this event was confined to the northwest half of the state. Some spots got over two inches of liquid. Thirty six hour totals through 100 am CDT on the 4th included 3.22 inches at Highfill (Benton County), 3.08 inches at Fayetteville (Washington County), 2.83 inches at Rogers (Benton County), 2.22 inches at Mountain Home (Baxter County), and 1.91 inches at Harrison (Boone County).

In response to the rain, the Buffalo River quickly rose at least ten feet at several sites, including St. Joe (Searcy County). The water was high and fast enough to shut down the canoe/kayak rental business temporarily (due to unsafe conditions).

Events like this pushed monthly rainfall totals in the north closer to average than the rest of the area. May totals were less than a quarter inch below average at Fayetteville (Washington County) and Jonesboro (Craighead County). Meanwhile, amounts farther south were more than three inches below normal at El Dorado (Union County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Texarkana (Miller County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County). 

 

Precipitation in May, 2018
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 5.82 6.04 -0.22 96%
Harrison (NC AR) 3.05 4.69 -1.64 65%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 4.48 4.61 -0.13 97%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 2.00 5.47 -3.47 37%
Little Rock (C AR) 2.46 4.87 -2.41 51%
West Memphis (EC AR) 2.04 5.24 -3.20 39%
Texarkana (SW AR) 1.78 5.09 -3.31 35%
El Dorado (SC AR) 0.89 5.05 -4.16 18%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 2.38 5.05 -2.67 47%

 

In the video: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a cluster of severe storms north of Stuttgart (Arkansas County) at 543 pm CDT on 05/06/2018. The storms collapsed as they approached town, and produced damaging winds.
 

On the 6th, a weak cold front visited from the north and triggered more scattered storms mainly east of Little Rock (Pulaski County). The most intense storms affected areas near Stuttgart (Arkansas County). As the storms collapsed, winds gusted to 67 mph at the local airport just north of town. In town, power outages were widespread.

Elsewhere, power was knocked out at Star City (Lincoln County) when a tree fell on a substation. A 48 mph gust was noted at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Power poles and/or power lines were downed at Carlisle (Lonoke County), Pangburn (White County), and Tuckerman (Jackson County). Quarter size hail was reported at Clinton (Van Buren County), near Damascus (Faulkner/Van Buren Counties), at Guy (Faulkner County), a few miles southwest of Otto (Pulaski County), and southwest of Searcy (White County).

Following this episode, quite a few high temperature records were tied or broken on the 7th through the 9th. The records were generally in the upper 80s to lower 90s.

 

A downed tree blocked Richards Road in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) following a severe storm on 05/15/2018. A light pole was also snapped.
In the picture: A downed tree blocked Richards Road in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) following a severe storm on 05/15/2018. A light pole was also snapped. Click to enlarge.
Farther south along the same road, another tree fell into a light pole and blocked one lane.
In the picture: Farther south along the same road, another tree fell into a light pole and blocked one lane. Click to enlarge.
Several smaller trees were snapped and blown to the east/southeast.
In the picture: Several smaller trees were snapped and blown to the east/southeast. Click to enlarge.
 

There were only a handful of thunderstorms on the 15th, but they packed a wallop. Between 415 pm and 430 pm CDT, wind gusts estimated at 60 to 70 mph pushed over or snapped trees in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). A couple of trees blocked a road temporarily (Richards Road).

 

The satellite showed clouds and precipitation (showers and thunderstorms) becoming widespread across western Arkansas during the afternoon of 05/16/2018. Precipitation was triggered by a storm system aloft moving into the region from eastern Oklahoma.
Satellite at 1200 pm CDT (05/16)  |  Satellite at 100 pm CDT (05/16)
Satellite at 200 pm CDT (05/16)  |  Satellite at 300 pm CDT (05/16)
Satellite at 400 pm CDT (05/16)  |  Loop
In the pictures: The satellite showed clouds and precipitation (showers and thunderstorms) becoming widespread across western Arkansas during the afternoon of 05/16/2018. Precipitation was triggered by a storm system aloft moving into the region from eastern Oklahoma.
 

The next day (the 16th), thunderstorms were a little more numerous in western and central Arkansas ahead of a storm system from Oklahoma. This time, heavy rain was more of a concern than severe weather. A quick one to two inches of liquid flooded an intersection (water was bumper high) on the west side of Bentonville (Benton County). Similar amounts were experienced from Pearcy to Hot Springs (both in Garland County), with high water along some roads (including Airport Road).

The system wobbled into the northeast counties during the nighttime hours of the 16th/early on the 17th and stalled. Precipitation swirled around the system in the eastern half of the state. By dawn on the 17th, more than three inches of rain dumped in spots from Pocahontas (Randolph County) to Jonesboro (Craighead County). Highway 141 near Walcott (Greene County) was closed due to flooding. A couple of county roads were under water near Bono (Craighead County).

 

In the video: A landspout was spawned near Monette (Craighead County) during the afternoon of 05/17/2018. The video is courtesy of Jacob Watson (via Twitter).
 

In this environment (with a system overhead), it is not uncommon for brief and weak tornadoes to be spawned. These are not tornadoes associated with mesocyclones (areas of circulation that are thousands of feet deep). Instead, these "landspouts" are shallow and mostly below the cloud base. Such a landspout was witnessed (through video) roughly two miles south-southeast of Monette (Craighead County) around 130 pm CDT on the 17th.

 

Moisture levels were well above average from the southern Mississippi Valley into the southeast United States on 05/23/2018. In Arkansas, precipitable water (a measure of water vapor in a vertical column of the atmosphere) was 1.50" to 1.75" and locally higher. Values in late May should range from 1.00" to 1.25".
In the picture: Moisture levels were well above average from the southern Mississippi Valley into the southeast United States on 05/23/2018. In Arkansas, precipitable water (a measure of water vapor in a vertical column of the atmosphere) was 1.50" to 1.75" and locally higher. Values in late May should range from 1.00" to 1.25".
 

Moisture was at abnormally high levels from the 20th through the 25th. Fronts had difficulty pushing through the region (to bring surges of dry/cool air) given a ridge of high pressure and a weak steering flow aloft. At the same time, storm systems drifting from the southern Plains to the Gulf Coast made the atmosphere unsettled.

There was not much severe weather during this time frame. The exception was the 20th, with big storms erupting in the northeast during the afternoon. Golf ball size hail was reported at Black Rock (Lawrence County) and near Bono (Craighead County). There was quarter size hail at McDougal (Clay County) and Paragould (Greene County). Trees fell on power lines, sheds were blown over, and an 18 wheeler was overturned on Highway 64 around Earle (Crittenden County).

 

Some roads were under water and threatening several homes in parts of North Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the afternoon of 05/23/2018. The photos are courtesy of John Robinson.
North Little Rock (Pulaski County) Flooding (Pic 1)
North Little Rock (Pulaski County) Flooding (Pic 2)
In the pictures: Some roads were under water and threatening several homes in parts of North Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the afternoon of 05/23/2018. The photos are courtesy of John Robinson.
 

Torrential downpours were common due to inflated moisture levels (to make thunderstorms more efficient rainmakers). Some notable amounts included 3.35 inches at Poinsett State Park (Poinsett County) on the 20th, 2.17 inches at Hope (Hempstead County) and 2.02 inches at Ozark (Franklin County) on the 22nd, and 2.91 inches southwest of Ponca (Newton County), 2.67 inches at Greers Ferry Dam (Cleburne County), and 2.00 inches southwest of Dennard (Van Buren County) on the 23rd. Note that most of these totals were valid as of 700 am CDT the next morning.  

There were some high water problems in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area on the afternoon of the 23rd. Two to three inches of rain fell in an hour, with roads under water in places. Cars were stranded in high water just southeast of Pulaski Heights (Pulaski County). Water got close to homes in some cases.

 

Subtropical Storm Alberto made landfall in the Florida panhandle on 05/28/2018 (Memorial Day). The system tracked into the Tennessee Valley, and stayed mostly to the east of Arkansas. Alberto was subtropical (versus tropical) because the storm developed with help of winds aloft and not just warm Gulf of Mexico water.
In the picture: Subtropical Storm Alberto made landfall in the Florida panhandle on 05/28/2018 (Memorial Day). The system tracked into the Tennessee Valley, and stayed mostly to the east of Arkansas. Alberto was subtropical (versus tropical) because the storm developed with help of winds aloft and not just warm Gulf of Mexico water.
 

The tropics came alive to finish May. The remnants of Subtropical Storm Alberto, which reached the Florida panhandle on the 28th, mostly missed the region to the east. This was the first May tropical/subtropical system in the Gulf of Mexico since 1976. There was way too much rain in western North Carolina (locally over six inches). This led to mudslides, and the collapse of a home in Boone, NC that killed two people.

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a line of storms forming and heading through eastern Arkansas from the north in the four hour period ending at 200 am CDT on 06/01/2018.
Radar at 1000 pm CDT (05/31)  |  Radar at 1100 pm CDT (05/31)
Radar at 1200 am CDT (06/01)  |  Radar at 100 am CDT (06/01)
Radar at 200 am CDT (06/01)  |  Loop
In the pictures: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a line of storms forming and heading through eastern Arkansas from the north in the four hour period ending at 200 am CDT on 06/01/2018.
 

While Alberto failed to bring beneficial rain around here, the month finished with some fireworks on the 31st. Scattered strong to severe thunderstorms formed into a line and headed through the northern and eastern counties from Missouri. Quarter to ping pong ball size hail was reported at Cherokee Village (Sharp County). An aluminum flag pole was snapped at Paragould (Greene County).

Precipitation was excessive at a few locations. North of Vidette (Fulton County), more than three inches of liquid was measured. This combined with amounts close to half a foot just across the Missouri line pushed creeks and small streams out of their banks. Roads and bridges were washed out in northern Fulton County.

 

Links of Interest
May 3, 2018 (severe storms/areas of heavy rain)
May 6, 2018 (severe storms)
May 15-17, 2018 (severe storms/areas of heavy rain)
May 20-25, 2018 (heavy downpours/isolated severe storms)
May 31-June 2, 2018 (huge hail/wind damage/flash flooding)

 

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

 

Temperatures and Precipitation
Temperatures were well above average in May. Readings at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to right. May, 2018 Temperatures in North Little Rock

 

May, 2018 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was above average in parts of northern Arkansas, and below to well below average elsewhere. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

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

 

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