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October, 2020 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
The remnants of Hurricane Delta brought wind and rain to southeast Arkansas to begin October. After that, it was largely dry and very mild at times for two weeks. Drought was also becoming an issue in northwest sections of the state. During the last week of the month, the sky opened and drought was less of a worry. Temperatures were also well below average, with a freeze in the north on the 30th.

 

Record Temperatures
 
There were a few record high and low temperatures tied or broken in October. Check out the records below.

 

Site Record Low (Date of Occurrence)
Jacksonville 39 (10/16)

 

Site Record High (Date of Occurrence)
Fayetteville 84 (10/22)
Stuttgart 86 (10/22)

 

Delta Hits the Southeast Early/Very Wet and Cool to End the Month
 
Delta was the twenty fifth named storm of the 2020 tropical season in the Atlantic basin, and the tenth tropical system to make landfall (on 10/09/2020) in the United States (a record).
In the picture: Delta was the twenty fifth named storm of the 2020 tropical season in the Atlantic basin, and the tenth tropical system to make landfall (on 10/09/2020) in the United States (a record).
 

A very busy tropical season in the Atlantic basin continued in October. Delta became a Category 4 hurricane (145 mph sustained winds) prior to hitting the Yucatan Peninsula on the 6th. After some weakening, the system emerged over the Gulf of Mexico, and eventually reached southwest Louisiana during the early evening of the 9th as a Category 2 storm. This was the twenty fifth named storm of 2020, and a record tenth system to make landfall in the United States. This previous high mark was nine storms in 1916.

The arrival of Delta was really bad news for Lake Charles, LA and surrounding areas. This part of the state was battered by Hurricane Laura in August, with many roofs still tarped. The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) was also wiped out at the local National Weather Service office. Because of this, a mobile radar was deployed to the site by the University of Oklahoma. The last thing needed here was another round of high winds and torrential rain, along with half a million power outages.

 

In the video: Rain spread across southern and eastern Arkansas as the remnants of Hurricane Delta approached from Louisiana early on 10/10/2020.
 

During the overnight hours of the 9th and into the 10th, Delta tracked to the northeast toward western Mississippi. Downpours spread into southern and eastern Arkansas.

 

Peak wind gusts were over 45 mph in parts of southeast Arkansas on 10/10/2020.
In the picture: Peak wind gusts were over 45 mph in parts of southeast Arkansas on 10/10/2020.
 

Winds picked up in the southeast on the 10th. A 48 mph gust was measured at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), with a 47 mph gust at Monticello (Drew County), and a 41 mph gust at Stuttgart (Arkansas County). Winds were strong enough to down trees and/or power lines at Fountain Hill and Hamburg (both in Ashley County), at Dermott, Eudora, and Lake Village (all in Chicot County), and in Warren (Bradley County).

Two to more than three inches of rain fell at Beedeville (Jackson County), Cane Creek State Park (Lincoln County), Crossett (Ashley County), Fordyce (Dallas County), Kelso (Desha County), Monticello (Drew County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and Thatcher Lock and Dam (Union County). North and west of Little Rock (Pulaski County), many locations received nary a drop of rain.

 

A moderate to exceptional drought (D1 to D4) was ongoing in the western United States on 10/06/2020.
In the picture: A moderate to exceptional drought (D1 to D4) was ongoing in the western United States on 10/06/2020.
 

In the western United States, heat and drought were widespread and wildfires were a huge problem. A record four million plus acres were torched in California up to this point in 2020. In northern sections of the state, the August Complex fire had consumed more than a million acres (a state record), with some people calling it a "gigafire". Just north of Estes Park, CO, the Cameron Peak fire had burned since August, and was about to become the all-time largest wildfire in Colorado (due to high winds on the 14th). There were 142 days of 100 degree heat in Phoenix, AZ through October 11th. This was one day away from tying the local record for triple digit temperatures in a calendar year. Drought was common from the Pacific Coast eastward into portions of the Plains, and spread into far northwest Arkansas where rainfall was six to more than eight inches subpar from June through September.

 

A cold front swept into Arkansas from the Plains on 10/23/2020. Scattered showers and thunderstorms popped up along and ahead of the front, and mainly in the southeast half of the state. As of 300 pm CDT, temperatures varied by almost 40 degrees across the front (40s in the northwest to around 80 degrees in the southeast).
In the picture: A cold front swept into Arkansas from the Plains on 10/23/2020. Scattered showers and thunderstorms popped up along and ahead of the front, and mainly in the southeast half of the state. As of 300 pm CDT, temperatures varied by almost 40 degrees across the front (40s in the northwest to around 80 degrees in the southeast).
 

After the remnants of Hurricane Delta departed southeast Arkansas, it was largely quiet and there was not much rain for almost two weeks. There were a few cold fronts that passed through the region from the northwest, but they did not make much noise. On the 23rd, another front was set to cross the area, and promised to bring some precipitation followed by much cooler air.

In the days leading up to the arrival of the front, it did not feel much like fall. From the 18th through the 22nd at Little Rock (Pulaski County), daytime temperatures were in the 80s, and lows were in the upper 50s and lower 60s (roughly ten degrees above average each day). It was mild again on the 23rd (in the 70s) ahead of the front, but things were changing quickly to the north and west. By 1200 pm CDT, the front was through Fayetteville (Washington County) and Harrison (Boone County). and readings were in the 40s.

As the front crossed the state, scattered showers and thunderstorms popped up mainly in the southern and eastern counties. Some places picked up one to two inches of rain in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on the 24th. This included Alicia (Lawrence County), Batesville (Independence County), Crystal Valley (Pulaski County), Des Arc (Prairie County), Keo (Lonoke County), and Sheridan (Grant County).

On the 24th, afternoon temperatures were in the mid 40s to mid 50s statewide. Record cold highs for the date were established at Harrison (Boone County), Jacksonville (Pulaski County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Monticello (Drew County), North Little Rock (Pulaski County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and Russellville (Pope County).

 

Estimated seventy two hour snowfall through 700 pm CDT on 10/24/2020.
In the picture: Estimated seventy two hour snowfall through 700 pm CDT on 10/24/2020.
 

Outside of the state, snow blanketed the northern Rockies (especially Montana) and portions of the upper Midwest by the evening of the 24th, and was building slowly to the south.

 

In the picture: As the Cameron Peak Fire burned north of Estes Park, CO, the East Troublesome Fire was closing in from the west (as shown in satellite imagery).
 

In northern Colorado, emergency personnel battling the largest fires on record in the state (Cameron Peak Fire/209,000 acres and East Troublesome Fire/193,000 acres) were awaiting the snow to the north. Flakes started flying after dark on the 24th, and there was enough accumulation to slow the progression of the fires (at least temporarily).

 

Forecast maps showed a variety of precipitation types across the southern United States in the three day period ending on 10/29/2020. Winter weather was mostly found in the central and southern Plains and southern Rockies, with rain and the possibility of flash flooding farther east. Meanwhile, Hurricane Zeta emerged in the Gulf of Mexico, and wreaked havoc south and east of Arkansas.
Forecast Map (10/27)  |  Forecast Map (10/28)
Forecast Map (10/29)  |  Loop
In the pictures: Forecast maps showed a variety of precipitation types across the southern United States in the three day period ending on 10/29/2020. Winter weather was mostly found in the central and southern Plains and southern Rockies, with rain and the possibility of flash flooding farther east. Meanwhile, Hurricane Zeta emerged in the Gulf of Mexico, and wreaked havoc south and east of Arkansas.
 

As the month came to a close, drought conditions were slowly expanding in northwest Arkansas. Through the 25th, there was only 0.46 inch of rain at Fayetteville (Washington County), and Harrison (Boone County) had 0.63 inch. With the beginning of November only a week away, chances of showers were increasing as a new tropical system (Zeta) headed for the Gulf of Mexico (from the Caribbean Sea), and a large storm system was on the horizon in the southern Plains.

The Plains system interacted with a front stalled along the Gulf Coast, with a variety of precipitation types breaking out north and west of the front. Here at home, it was too mild for anything but liquid, with downpours affecting areas mainly north and west of Little Rock (Pulaski County) on the 26th. By evening, one to two inch amounts were tallied in the drought stricken northwest. There was a lot more to come.

 

There were many reports of an ice storm and accumulating snow to the west of Arkansas, and hurricane/tropical storm conditions south and east of the state in the sixty hour period ending at 700 pm CDT on 10/29/2020.
In the picture: There were many reports of an ice storm and accumulating snow to the west of Arkansas, and hurricane/tropical storm conditions south and east of the state in the sixty hour period ending at 700 pm CDT on 10/29/2020.
 

To the west, a major snow and ice storm unfolded from New Mexico to the Texas panhandle and on into Oklahoma. There was record October snowfall in Albuquerque, NM from the 26th through the 28th, with 4.4 inches of powder officially. On the 27th, the high was 34 degrees, which was a record cold high for the month. The low that morning (and the previous morning) was 19 degrees. It had not been that cold in October since 1917.At Taos, NM, one to two feet of snow blanketed ski slopes. From Oklahoma City, OK westward, ice accruals reached a half inch to over an inch. The weight of the ice caused tree and power line damage, and was responsible for at least 300,000 power outages.

In the tropics south and east of Arkansas, Zeta was making headlines. This was the twenty seventh named storm of the year, and only one away from tying the record set in 2005. It was the fifth tropical system to move inland in Louisiana in 2020, and it did so during the afternoon of the 28th about 65 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, LA. It was a strong Category 2 storm with 110 mph sustained winds. Zeta quickly slammed into the city, and was the strongest storm on record to hit the metro area directly.

From there, Zeta hauled to the northeast at 25 mph, and stayed a hurricane all the way into Alabama through the evening. The system was still a tropical storm early on the 29th from Georgia into the Carolinas, and its forward speed ramped up to almost 50 mph.

 

In the video: The satellite showed Hurricane Zeta and a well defined eye slamming into the Louisiana Gulf Coast about 65 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, LA during the late afternoon of 10/28/2020. At the same time, a powerful storm system was swirling in the southern Rockies and southern Plains. The video is courtesy of William Churchill via Twitter. 
 

Along the track of Zeta, damage was extensive. Numerous trees and utility poles were knocked down, with many trees on homes and blocking roads. Most structural damage was roof related. A whopping two million power outages were counted.

 

Ninety six hour (four day) rainfall through 700 am CDT on 10/30/2020.
In the picture: Ninety six hour (four day) rainfall through 700 am CDT on 10/30/2020.
 

Back in Arkansas, a big gullywasher came on the 28th as the system in the Plains neared. Rain came down in buckets over the northern half of the state, with four to more than five inch amounts at several locations. This included Des Arc (Prairie County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Harrison (Boone County), Paragould (Greene County), and Winslow (Washington County). Three to four inch totals occurred at Booneville (Logan County), Batesville (Independence County), Gilbert (Searcy County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Lead Hill (Boone County), Marshall (Searcy County), Mena (Polk County), Mountain Home (Baxter County), Newport (Jackson County), and Ozark (Franklin County).

In and around Little Rock (Pulaski County), there was spotty flash flooding. At Sherwood (Pulaski County), an inch and a half of rain dumped in twenty minutes. The Little Rock Air Force Base (Pulaski County) got 1.66 inches in an hour.

In a four day period ending at 700 am CDT on the 30th, precipitation in parts of the north and west exceeded six inches. It was a complete reversal of fortune from the dryness experienced up until the deluge. For the month, rain was more than two inches above average at Fayetteville (Washington County), and just under five inches above average at Harrison (Boone County).

 

Precipitation in October, 2020
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 6.80 4.33 +2.47 157%
Harrison (NC AR) 8.42 3.55 +4.87 237%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 5.92 4.26 +1.66 139%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 6.81 4.32 +2.49 158%
Little Rock (C AR) 3.89 4.91 -1.02 79%
West Memphis (EC AR) 4.70 4.21 +0.49 112%
Texarkana (SW AR) 1.41 4.93 -3.52 29%
El Dorado (SC AR) 3.86 5.19 -1.33 74%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 6.60 5.00 +1.60 132%

 

It was not so wet in the southwest, with only 1.41 inches of water (a deficit of 3.52 inches) at Texarkana (Miller County). Precipitation deficits were between one and two inches at El Dorado (Union County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County). 

 

There was minor flooding at a few forecast points along rivers in eastern Arkansas on 10/30/2020.
In the picture: There was minor flooding at a few forecast points along rivers in eastern Arkansas on 10/30/2020.
 

The Buffalo River at St. Joe (Searcy County) shot up almost twenty feet (to 26.03 feet) on the 29th, and ended up just below the flood stage (of 27 feet). Water levels came up along the Black, Cache, and lower White Rivers, with minor flooding at a few forecast points.

 

Low temperatures on 10/30/2020. Readings dipped to near or just below freezing in parts of northern Arkansas.
In the picture: Low temperatures on 10/30/2020. Readings dipped to near or just below freezing in parts of northern Arkansas.
 

There was very little sun from the 26th through the 29th. Clouds were trapped under a persistent inversion (warmer aloft than at the ground), and this kept it cool. At North Little Rock (Pulaski County), temperatures during this time frame were 10 to 15 degrees below normal. Highs were only in the upper 40s to lower 50s, with a record cool high of 48 degrees on the 27th. Cool high records were also set at Batesville (Independence County), Harrison (Boone County), Hot Springs (Garland County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Russellville (Pope County).

After the system exited to the east, the sky cleared and temperatures dropped in the 30s and lower 40s by the morning of the 30th. There was a freeze in the north, with 30 degrees at Fayetteville (Washington County) and Marshall (Searcy County), and 31 degrees at Evening Shade (Sharp County), Gilbert (Searcy County), and Mammoth Spring (Fulton County).

 

Links of Interest
October 9-12, 2020 (Delta arrives/heavy rain/drying out)
October 23-24, 2020 (some thunder/cooling off)
October 26-29, 2020 (lots of rain/winter storm to west/Zeta to east)

 

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

 

Temperatures and Precipitation
Temperatures were mostly below average, especially in the last week of October. Readings at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to right. October, 2020 Temperatures in North Little Rock

 

October, 2020 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was at or above average in northern and eastern Arkansas, and below average from central into southwest sections of the state. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

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

 

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