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May, 2019 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
It was an active May, with several rounds of severe weather and more than a dozen weak tornadoes (rated EF0/EF1) spawned. Rain was heavy to excessive, especially in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. This pushed the Arkansas River to record levels west of Little Rock (Pulaski County) by the end of the month.

 

Record Temperatures
 
There was only one record high temperature in mid-May. Check out the record below.

 

Site Record High (Date of Occurrence)
Stuttgart 90 (05/17)

 

Another Very Wet Month/Arkansas River Overflows/Plenty of Tornadoes
 
Rainfall in May, 2019.
In the picture: Rainfall in May, 2019.
 

The clouds unleashed a lot of rain in May. Double digit amounts were typical from central into southwest Arkansas. Monthly totals were two to more than four inches above average at Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Texarkana (Miller County). Precipitation was even more intense in southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma. This led to big rises on the Arkansas River. There is more on this later.

 

Precipitation in May, 2019
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 6.56 6.04 +0.52 109%
Harrison (NC AR) 5.98 4.69 +1.29 128%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 8.07 4.61 +3.46 175%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 8.01 5.47 +2.54 146%
Little Rock (C AR) 8.58 4.87 +3.71 176%
West Memphis (EC AR) 4.60 5.24 -0.64 88%
Texarkana (SW AR) 9.87 5.09 +4.78 194%
El Dorado (SC AR) 6.42 5.05 +1.37 127%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 6.06 5.05 +1.01 120%

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a backward C-shaped line of storms (bow echo) heading from western into central Arkansas between 100 am and 300 am CDT on 05/01/2019. The bow echo gets its shape from powerful winds punching through the back of the storms.and causing them to bulge outward.
Radar at 100 am CDT (05/01)  |  Radar at 200 am CDT (05/01)
Radar at 300 am CDT (05/01)  |   Loop
In the pictures: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a backward C-shaped line of storms (bow echo) heading from western into central Arkansas between 100 am and 300 am CDT on 05/01/2019. The bow echo gets its shape from powerful winds punching through the back of the storms.and causing them to bulge outward.
 

The month got off to a fast start during the early morning hours of May 1st. A bowing line of storms from Oklahoma brought 60 to 100 mph wind gusts to portions of western and central Arkansas. Chicken houses were damaged at Scranton (Logan County), with barns and outbuildings destroyed at Knoxville (Johnson County). There were also trees on houses. A home was heavily damaged by a fallen tree at Atkins (Pope County), and a convenience store lost a part of a roof. More trees were toppled at Blackwell (Conway County) and Chickalah (Yell County), and a garage door was blown in at the latter location.

Later on the 1st/early on the 2nd, another round of storms was on the horizon to the west. However, while there were some downpours across the western counties, severe weather veered to the south toward Texas and Louisiana.

 

In the video: The satellite loop showed a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) triggering thunderstorms from central into northeast Arkansas during the afternoon of 05/02/2019. The MCV came from decaying thunderstorms in the southern Plains the night before.
 

Unfortunately, once the storms dissipated, they left behind a mesoscale convective vortex (MCV). At times, this feature has been known to trigger new storms downstream from the storms that decayed. That is what happened on the 2nd. Also, the turning motion of the MCV can enhance rotation within developing storms, and that happened as well.

 

In the pictures: A weak tornado (rated EF1) damaged structures and overturned trucks near Mabelvale (Pulaski County) on 05/02/2019. The photos are courtesy of Brian Emfinger via Twitter.
 

Several brief and weak tornadoes (rated EF0/EF1) were produced from central into eastern Arkansas. At least seven tornadoes were confirmed in the Little Rock County Warning Area. The first of these tornadoes hit Mabelvale (Pulaski County) shortly after 1230 pm CDT, and was gone in four minutes. Within the next hour, four more short-lived tornadoes spun up near Gibson, to the northeast and west of Macon (all in Pulaski County), and just southwest of Otto (Faulkner County). Between 200 pm and 300 pm CDT, areas just southeast of Swifton (Jackson County) and west of Des Arc (Prairie County) had tornadoes.

 

At least four weak tornadoes (rated EF0/EF1) were confirmed near Mabelvale, Gibson, and northeast of Macon (all in Pulaski County), and also close to Swifton (Jackson County) on 05/02/2019. There was also a tornado northeast of Lafe (Greene County) in the Memphis County Warning Area. It was thought a tornado was responsible for damage to a baseball field in McCrory (Woodruff County). A damage survey found evidence of a thunderstorm microburst (straight-line winds).
In the picture: At least four weak tornadoes (rated EF0/EF1) were confirmed near Mabelvale, Gibson, and northeast of Macon (all in Pulaski County), and also close to Swifton (Jackson County) on 05/02/2019.

 

 

Too much rain flooded Batesville Pike near Jacksonville-Conway Road just northwest of Macon (Pulaski County) on 05/02/2019. It was the same story along Race Street in Searcy (White County) and Central Avenue in Hot Springs (Garland County). The photos are courtesy of John Robinson, Robert Rowland, and the Hot Springs Police Department.
Flooding on Batesville Pike Near Macon (Pulaski County)
Flooding on Race Street in Searcy (White County)
Flooding on Central Avenue in Hot Springs (Garland County)
In the pictures: Too much rain flooded Batesville Pike near Jacksonville-Conway Road just northwest of Macon (Pulaski County) on 05/02/2019. It was the same story along Race Street in Searcy (White County) and Central Avenue in Hot Springs (Garland County). The photos are courtesy of John Robinson, Robert Rowland, and the Hot Springs Police Department.
 

Because of the MCV (which boosted rainfall rates), flash flooding became an issue in central Arkansas. A quick two inch deluge at Hot Springs (Garland County) during the morning of the 2nd flooded Central Avenue. Photos showed cars halfway submerged in water. Too much rain in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) led to high water and numerous roads closed. There was also flooding in Searcy (White County).

 

River flooding was a huge problem in Arkansas and surrounding states on 05/04/2019.
In the picture: River flooding was a huge problem in Arkansas and surrounding states on 05/04/2019.
 

Before the event started, rivers were already elevated in southern and eastern Arkansas. This included the Black, Cache, Ouachita, and lower White Rivers. Because the heaviest rain stayed to the north/west of these tributaries, water levels did not go into orbit. However, the rivers were vulnerable to more serious flooding down the road.

 

Twenty four hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on 05/09/2019.
In the picture: Twenty four hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on 05/09/2019.
 

A week later, precipitation came in buckets from Little Rock (Pulaski County) southward. There were several amoounts over four inches. Twenty four hour totals through 700 am CDT on the 9th included 6.12 inches at Portland (Ashley County), 5.62 inches at Lewisville (Lafayette County), 4.79 inches at Cane Creek State Park (Lincoln County), 4.64 inches at Kelso (Desha County), 4.60 inches at Hope (Hempstead County), 4.08 inches at Malvern (Hot Spring County), and 4.01 inches at Ashdown (Little River County).

Street flooding was reported at Austin, Cabot, and Coy (all in Lonoke County), as well as in Dermott (Chicot County), Donaldson (Hot Spring County), Maumelle (Pulaski County), and Sheridan (Grant County). Highway 203 in Woodberry (Calhoun County) was submerged in water. It was the same story along Highway 182 near Amity (Clark County). High water threatened homes in Eudora (Chicot County).  

 

Damage found on the east side of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) was in a convergent pattern, which suggested a weak tornado (rated EF1) was responsible on 05/08/2019.
In the picture: Damage found on the east side of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) was in a convergent pattern, which suggested a weak tornado (rated EF1) was responsible on 05/08/2019.
 

But the headliner in this event was not what fell from the sky. It was a high end weak tornado (rated EF1) that was spawned on the east side of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) near some apartment buildings. It happened at 619 pm CDT on the 8th. The tornado only lasted a quarter of a mile, but produced 110 mph winds.

 

Following a high end weak tornado (rated EF1), the wall of an apartment collapsed with with interior rooms exposed on the east side of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on 05/08/2019.
In the picture: Following a high end weak tornado (rated EF1), the wall of an apartment collapsed with with interior rooms exposed on the east side of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on 05/08/2019. Click to enlarge.
The same tornado ripped another wall apart on a different apartment building on 05/08/2019.
In the picture: The same tornado ripped another wall apart on a different apartment building on 05/08/2019. Click to enlarge.
In the same area, bricks were removed from this building and windows were blown out on 05/08/2019.
In the picture: In the same area, bricks were removed from this building and windows were blown out on 05/08/2019.  Click to enlarge.
Trees and utility poles were also snapped on 05/08/2019.
In the picture: Trees and utility poles were also snapped on 05/08/2019. Click to enlarge.
 

The apartment buildings were heavily damaged, with a couple of walls partially or mostly exposed. Nine people were injured, and seventy families were displaced. The Red Cross declared this a major disaster.

 

 

The 500 millibar (18,000 feet) map showed a ridge of high pressure starting to build into Arkansas from the Plains at 100 pm CDT on 05/15/2019. At the surface and on the eastern periphery of the ridge, a front was nearly stationary across northeast Arkansas. The front was a focus for scattered strong to severe thunderstorms during the afternoon.
In the picture: The 500 millibar (18,000 feet) map showed a ridge of high pressure starting to build into Arkansas from the Plains at 100 pm CDT on 05/15/2019. At the surface and on the eastern periphery of the ridge, a front was nearly stationary across northeast Arkansas. The front was a focus for scattered strong to severe thunderstorms during the afternoon.
 

The weather quieted down temporarily in mid-May, with widespread heavy rain taking a break. A summerlike pattern was noted as a ridge of high pressure nosed into Arkansas from the west on the 15th. Under the high, it promised to be very warm and mostly dry for at least a couple of days.

 

High temperatures on 05/15/2019 were in the 80s to around 90 degrees.
In the picture: High temperatures on 05/15/2019 were in the 80s to around 90 degrees.
 

During the afternoon of the 15th, temperatures climbed into the 80s to around 90 degrees at most locations. The high was 90 degrees at Camden (Ouachita County) and Conway (Faulkner County). It was 88 degrees at Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Monticello (Drew County), and Searcy (White County). Normally, highs are in the mid 70s to lower 80s.

 

At 100 pm CDT on 05/15/2019, isolated thunderstorms were popping up in southeast Missouri.
In the picture: At 100 pm CDT on 05/15/2019, isolated thunderstorms were popping up in southeast Missouri. Click to enlarge.
By 430 pm CDT on 05/15/2019, storms were more numerous and shifted into northeast Arkansas.
In the picture: By 430 pm CDT on 05/15/2019, storms were more numerous and shifted into northeast Arkansas. Click to enlarge.
 

While it heated up, it was not dry everywhere. Before the ridge of high pressure could get here, a stationary front was in place across northeast sections of the state. Surrounding the front, scattered thunderstorms popped up during the afternoon. Some of the storms became strong to severe.

 

In the video: There was plenty of hail falling in Possum Grape (Jackson County) during the early evening of 05/15/2019. The video is courtesy of Robert Rowland via Twitter.
 

Mainly hail occurred with the strongest storms. The largest stones were about the size of a lime (two inches in diameter), and were reported just southwest of Salado (Independence County) at 711 pm CDT. Quarter to golf ball size hail was produced at Cash (Craighead County), a few miles west of Pocahontas (Randolph County), north of Huff, southwest of Batesville, and at Cushman (all in Independence County).

 

In the video: The satellite showed showers and thunderstorms expanding from western Texas into central and eastern Oklahoma during the morning of 05/18/2019.
 

A few days later (on the 18th), a powerful storm system went from the southern Plains to the upper Midwest, with a cold front dragged into the region by the system. As the day began, storms were ongoing from Texas into Oklahoma. A line of storms eventually made it into western Arkansas by 200 pm CDT.

Just like on the 1st, part of the line bowed out (indicating the presence of strong to damaging winds) from Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to Clarksville (Johnson County). There was extensive tree damage, with trees on houses and blocking roads. Hardest hit areas inlcuded Altus (Franklin County), as well as Paris and Scranton (both in Logan County). Gusts likely exceeded 90 mph. Farther north, a 62 mph gust was measured at Fayetteville (Washington County).

There were five weak tornadoes (all rated EF1) associated with the line of storms in Sebastian, Franklin, and Crawford Counties. One of these cut a swath from a mile south-southwest of Arkoma, OK through the south side of Fort Smith (Sebastian County). At least a dozen homes had roof damage in this part of town.

 

WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) storm relative velocity images showed damaging straight-lne winds (50 to more than 70 mph) surging from central into eastern Arkansas between 518 pm and 555 pm CDT on 05/18/2019. There was rotation at times on the northern end of the ball of wind (called a "bookend").
Velocity at 518 pm CDT (05/18)  |  Velocity at 537 pm CDT (05/18)
Velocity at 555 pm CDT (05/18)  |  Loop
In the pictures: WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) storm relative velocity images showed damaging straight-lne winds (50 to more than 70 mph) surging from central into eastern Arkansas between 518 pm and 555 pm CDT on 05/18/2019. There was rotation at times on the northern end of the ball of wind (called a "bookend").
 

Once storms reached central sections of the state, the radar picked up a ball of wind (50 to over 70 mph) surging from the south side of Little Rock (Pulaski County) toward Stuttgart (Arkansas County). Just northeast of Mabelvale (Pulaski County), the roof of a hotel was damaged. Minor structural damage occurred at a church just south of Pettus (Lonoke County), with power lines downed near Culler (Lonoke County). A 70 mph gust was estimated close to Biscoe (Prairie County).

 

During the late afternoon and early evening of 05/18/2019, there was a lot of dust kicked up by damaging winds in central and eastern Arkansas. As winds kicked up, there was several instances of gustnadoes/dust devils/eddies. Such was the case just north of Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The photo is courtesy of Jesse Bear.
In the picture: During the late afternoon and early evening of 05/18/2019, there was a lot of dust kicked up by damaging winds in central and eastern Arkansas. As winds kicked up, there were several instances of gustnadoes/dust devils/eddies. Such was the case just north of Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The photo is courtesy of Jesse Bear.
 

Along the way, several photos showed a lot of dust kicked up by the wind. Gustnadoes or dust devils were also generated as the wind speed rapidly increased. There was a weak tornado (rated EF0) produced three miles west of Slovak (Prairie County). A couple of grain bins were dented or pushed in.

 

What is a Gustnado?

A gustnado is a small whirlwind which forms as an eddy in thunderstorm outflows or the leading edge of gust fronts (preceding strong to damaging winds). It usually contains dust or debris at or near the ground with no condensation funnel. It does not connect with any cloud-base rotation (not a tornado), and is officially classified as a thunderstorm wind event. For a video near Biggers (Randolph County) of a "dustnado" (courtesy of Jason Hampton via Twitter), click here.

 

The pattern featured a ridge of high pressure ("H") over the southeast United States on 05/23/2019. Storm systems were forced to go around the periphery of the high, with heavy to excessive rain in northeast Oklahoma. All this water and releases from very high lakes headed downstream along the Arkansas River.
In the picture: The pattern featured a ridge of high pressure ("H") over the southeast United States on 05/23/2019. Storm systems were forced to go around the periphery of the high, with heavy to excessive rain in northeast Oklahoma. All this water and releases from very high lakes headed downstream along the Arkansas River.
 

Summer returned by the 21st as a ridge of high pressure strengthened over the southeast United States. Storm systems were shoved to the west of the area, and dumped six to twelve inches of rain over northeast Oklahoma in just a few days. The high was strong over southeast Arkansas, but not as dominant across the northern and western counties. This is where the door was open for thunderstorms.

 

Chicken houses were heavily damaged by 80 to 90 mph thunderstorm gusts a few miles northeast of Atkins (Pope County) on 05/21/2019.
In the picture: Chicken houses were heavily damaged by 80 to 90 mph thunderstorm gusts a few miles northeast of Atkins (Pope County) on 05/21/2019. Click to enlarge.
In the same area, several huge trees were downed.
In the picture: In the same area, several huge trees were downed. Click to enlarge.
 

One storm of note cranked out 80 to 90 mph straight-line winds just northeast of Atkins (Pope County). A couple of chicken houses were torn up, and several huge trees were knocked over. A woman was in a shed that got blown away, and then a tree fell on her. She was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital. 

In the days to follow, severe weather was relentless from the Plains to the mid-Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. Powerful tornadoes (rated EF3/EF4) were spawned from the 23rd through the 28th in Jefferson City, MO, El Reno, OK, Celina, OH, and Lawrence, KS.

 

Following heavy rain in Oklahoma, the water level on Keystone Lake was well above normal (more than twenty five feet too high) and was dangerously close to the flood pool on 05/22/2019. The graphic (edited) is courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District.
In the picture: Following heavy rain in Oklahoma, the water level on Keystone Lake was well above normal (more than twenty five feet too high) and was dangerously close to the flood pool on 05/22/2019. The graphic (edited) is courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District.
 

Near Tulsa, OK, lake levels became dangerously high at Keystone Dam, and water releases were necessary. The releases (greater than 250,000 cubic feet per second) were more than double the flow of Niagara Falls. The Arkansas River was about to go haywire. 

 

In the picture: The Arkansas River at Muskogee, OK reached its second highest level in recorded history during the evening of 05/22/2019.
 

On the 22nd, the river wreaked havoc in Webbers Falls, OK. Residents were urged to evacuate as water inundated large tracts of land and engulfed homes. During the evening, the river reached its second highest level on record at Muskogee, OK. 

 

Unprecedented water levels were noted along the Arkansas River at Dardanelle (Yell County) by 05/30/2019 (breaking the previous record set in 1943).
In the picture: Unprecedented water levels were noted along the Arkansas River at Dardanelle (Yell County) by 05/30/2019 (breaking the previous record set in 1943).
 

Farther downstream, unprecedented water levels were reached in areas west of Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Van Buren (Crawford County) to Toad Suck (Perry County) during the remainder of May. Records going back to the 1940s and before were shattered.

As the river swelled, nearby highways became inaccessible. On the 28th, a 64-year-old man drove around a barricade along Highway 22 near Barling (Sebastian County) and drowned. 

 

In the video: Water from the Arkansas River was flooding homes near Two Rivers Park about eight miles northwest of Little Rock (Pulaski County) on 05/29/2019. The video is courtesy of the Arkansas State Police.
 

Evacuations became necessary as homes and businesses flooded. Levees were breached, including one near Dardanelle (Yell County). The water was headed toward town, with 300 to 400 homes in danger of going under water. There was a potential for many more homes to be impacted by overtopped levees from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in early June.

 

Link of Interest
Video of Levee Breach Near Dardanelle (Yell County) Along the Arkansas River (courtesy of Brian Emfinger via Twitter)

 

Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) data showed CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) values climbing over 4000 Joules/kilogram across northern and central Arkansas during the afternoon of 05/29/2019. CAPE is not only a measure of energy available for thunderstorm development, it is related to the strength of storm updrafts and the potential for severe weather.
In the picture: Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) data showed CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) values climbing over 4000 Joules/kilogram across northern and central Arkansas during the afternoon of 05/29/2019. CAPE is not only a measure of energy available for thunderstorm development, it is related to the strength of storm updrafts and the potential for severe weather.
 

In addition to the issues facing residents along the Arkansas River, there was one more round of active weather to mention on the 29th. There was a tremendous amount of energy available (heat/humidity), and thunderstorms were a sure thing during the afternoon.

Golf ball size hail occurred near Concord (Cleburne County), with half dollar size stones at Clinton (Van Buren County). A 67 mph gust was measured at Siloam Springs (Benton County). Trees were downed at Conway and Vilonia (both in Faulkner County), near Salem (Saline County), and around Maynard (Randolph County). A few miles south of Ravenden Springs (Randolph County), a weak tornado (rated EF0) damaged an outbuilding and a mobile home. A lightning strike set a home on fire just north of Bryant (Saline County). Finally, over four inches of rain was measured near Clinton (Van Buren County), and from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Benton (Saline County). Roads were flooded and had to be barricaded in some cases.

 

Links of Interest
April 30-May 3, 2019 (severe storms/flooding rain)
May 8-9, 2019 (severe storms/flooding rain)
May 15, 2019 (severe storms)
May 18, 2019 (severe storms)
May 21-26, 2019 (severe storms/heavy rain/Arkansas River rising)
May 29, 2019 (severe storms/heavy rain/Arkansas River flooding)

 

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

 

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

 

May, 2019 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was above to well above average in much of Arkansas. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

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

 

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