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September, 2020 Storm Report
 
Short Weather Summary
 
September began with flooding rain and a few tornadoes in northern and western Arkansas, with wet weather affecting mostly the southern counties thereafter. Much of the rain in the south was provided by the tropics. While it was warm early in the month, fall arrived in areas to the north and west. It eventually cooled down locally during the last two weeks.

 

Record Temperatures
 
There were no record high/low temperatures tied or broken in September.

 

Too Much Rain in Places/The Tropics Strike Again/Fall Finally Arrives
 
 
Twenty four hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on 09/02/2020.
In the picture: Twenty four hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on 09/02/2020.
 

After a wet climatological summer (June through August), downpours did not stop heading into September. On the 1st, several inches of rain dumped from Mena (Polk County) and Waldron (Scott County) to Russellville (Pope County), Mountain View (Stone County), and Paragould (Greene County).

 

In the video: Following excessive rain, life threatening flooding was occurring in western Arkansas in early September, 2020. The video is courtesy of Charles Peek via Twitter.
 

The ground was already saturated in parts of the west after more than a foot of precipitation in August. Water had nowhere to go, and flooding became life threatening. At Waldron (Scott County), numerous roads were under water (including Highways 28 and 71), and this was spilling into homes and businesses. Local residents had to be rescued. Major flooding occurred along the Petit Jean River at Danville (Yell County), with a Top 10 highest crest by the 2nd.

Farther north/east, vehicles stalled in high water at Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and this stranded motorists. County roads were flooded near the Petit Jean River at Booneville (Logan County). More county roads were inundated with water at Dardanelle (Yell County), and parts of Highways 27 and 28 were affected. An overflowing creek closed Highway 28 around Bluffton (Yell County). County roads were washed out near Hanover (Stone County). Highway 115 was flooded and shut down near Jessup (Lawrence County).

In eastern Oklahoma, the situation was dire. Six to eight inches of rain trapped people in homes, forced evacuations, and submerged cars from Panama, OK to Poteau, OK. A Flash Flood Emergency was issued for Shady Point, OK by the National Weather Service in Tulsa, OK.

 

A tornado (rated EF2) was confirmed four miles south of Heber Springs (Cleburne County) to five miles east-southeast of town on 09/01/2020.
In the picture: A tornado (rated EF2) was confirmed four miles south of Heber Springs (Cleburne County) to five miles east-southeast of town on 09/01/2020.
 

Back in Arkansas, on top of too much rain, there was some severe weather on the 1st. One storm produced three tornadoes from central into northeast sections of the state (Conway, Faulkner, and Cleburne Counties). The strongest of the tornadoes (rated EF2) cut a 5.3 mile swath through areas just south and southeast of Heber Springs (Cleburne County) between 300 pm and 330 pm CDT on the 1st. Tree damage was extensive, with numerous trees snapped four to five miles southeast of town. Some trees were on a home, and a few outbuildings were damaged.

 

A tornado (rated EF2) snapped numerous trees and deposited a tree onto a home several miles south and southeast of Heber Springs (Cleburne County) on 09/01/2020.
Numerous Trees Snapped 4.5 Miles Southeast of Heber Springs (Cleburne County)
Trees on a House 3.5 Miles South of Heber Springs (Cleburne County)
In the pictures: A tornado (rated EF2) snapped numerous trees and deposited a tree onto a home several miles south and southeast of Heber Springs (Cleburne County) on 09/01/2020.
 

The other two tornadoes (rated EF0/EF1) tracked just north of Plumerville and Menifee (both in Conway County), and northwest of Wooster and Greenbrier (both in Faulkner County). More trees were uprooted, and there was some minor structural damage.

 

Link of Interest
Damage Survey Information

 

Temperatures dropped 30 to more than 50 degrees from the Rockies into the Plains behind a cold front in the twenty four hour period ending at 400 pm CDT on 09/08/2020. Ahead of the front, readings remained seasonal to a little above average in Arkansas.
In the picture: Temperatures dropped 30 to more than 50 degrees from the Rockies into the Plains behind a cold front in the twenty four hour period ending at 400 pm CDT on 09/08/2020. Ahead of the front, readings remained seasonal to a little above average in Arkansas.
 

A week later, the pattern slowed way down locally. A ridge of high pressure parked over the southeast United States, and provided mostly warm and dry conditions. The ridge prevented a significant cool air mass from plowing through the region from the west.

Parts of the Rockies and Plains experienced a thirty to more than fifty degree temperature drop from the 7th to the 8th. Thermometers at Denver, CO, Amarillo, TX, and Kansas City, MO went from the lower 90s at 400 pm CDT on the 7th to 34 degrees, 47 degrees, and 57 degrees respectively twenty four hours later. Meanwhile, afternoon readings were in the upper 80s to around 90 degrees at Little Rock (Pulaski County). 

The heat on the 7th was nothing new at Denver, CO. On that day, it was at least 90 degrees for the 73rd time in 2020. This tied 2012 for the most 90 degree days locally. On the 5th, it was 101 degrees, which was the all-time high temperature for September, and the latest 100 degree day on record. By the morning of the 8th, it was 31 degrees in the mountain metropolis, which became earliest recorded freeze (tied with 1962). There was also an inch of snow, which was the second earliest measurable snowfall. This also broke a streak of nineteen consecutive snowless Septembers in the city.

 

A moderate to exceptional drought (D1 to D4) was ongoing in the western United States on 09/08/2020.
In the picture: A moderate to exceptional drought (D1 to D4) was ongoing in the western United States on 09/08/2020.
 

Snow in the central Rockies slowed the growth of a huge fire (Cameron Peak) just north of Estes Park, CO. The fire consumed just over 100,000 acres before flakes starting flying, and was only 4 percent contained as of the 13th. The fire was partly due to very dry conditions, with widespread drought across the western United States. Wildfires were especially bad/destructive along the Pacific Coast from Washington to California.

It was absolutely awful in Oregon. Fires forced the evacuations of at least 40,000 people. Entire towns (such as Phoenix, OR and Talent, OR) and hundreds of homes were torched by fire. In a press conference, the Governor of Oregon declared: "This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state's history.” In California, an unprecedented 3,000,000 acres had burned by the 12th. In northern sections of the state, the August Complex fire (a result of three dozen separate fires triggered by lightning in mid-August) was the largest ever in the state at over 850,000 acres. So many fires led to copious amounts of smoke and poor air quality in parts of the west.

 

Hurricane Sally drifted (at 2 mph) toward the central Gulf Coast on 09/15/2020. The system was expected to make landfall the next morning. The forecast is courtesy of the National Hurricane Center.
In the picture: Hurricane Sally drifted (at 2 mph) toward the central Gulf Coast on 09/15/2020. The system was expected to make landfall the next morning. The forecast is courtesy of the National Hurricane Center.
 

In mid-September, there was a lot of interest in Hurricane Sally. Arkansas had already dealt with two tropical systems (Cristobal in June and Laura in August) in 2020, so there was some concern as to where the system would go. In the end, Sally ended up well to the east along the central Gulf Coast.

Sally made landfall with 105 mph sustained winds (a Category 2 storm) near Gulf Shores, AL early on the 16th. A slow north to northeast drift at 2 to 3 mph caused rain to last for hours, and there was a lot of it.

 

Seventy two hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on 09/17/2020. One to more than two feet of rain dumped from far southern Alabama to the Florida panhandle.
In the picture: Seventy two hour rainfall through 700 am CDT on 09/17/2020. One to more than two feet of rain dumped from far southern Alabama to the Florida panhandle.
 

More than two feet of rain was unleashed in places from Orange Beach, AL to Pensacola, FL. At the latter location, the combination of excessive precipitation and the third highest storm surge (5.6 feet) on record locally turned the city into a giant lake. Very rare Flash Flood Emergencies were issued by the National Weather Service in Mobile, AL. There was moderate to major flooding along several area rivers. Residents along the Fish, Perdido, and Styx Rivers in Baldwin County, AL were asked to evacuate as these tributaries overflowed.

Other than the flooding, many boats were destroyed and power was knocked out to more than half a million homes. A large crane was dislodged from a barge and fell through a section of a bridge over Pensacola Bay. Just east of Gulf Shores, AL, a newly renovated fishing pier was damaged at Gulf State Park. This happened on the same day a ribbon cutting was scheduled to celebrate the renovation.

 

While the remnants of Hurricane Sally were dumping lots of rain in the Carolinas, a cold front passed through Arkansas from the north with little in the way of precipitation late on 09/17/2020 and early the next day.
In the picture: While the remnants of Hurricane Sally were dumping lots of rain in the Carolinas, a cold front passed through Arkansas from the north with little in the way of precipitation late on 09/17/2020 and early the next day.
 

Here at home, it was a much quieter situation. After missing out on fall weather earlier in the month as cool air failed to reach Arkansas, a new cold front pushed through the state from the north on the 17th/18th. Moisture was limited, so any rain was spotty.

The front was followed by a breezy northeast wind on the 18th. By the morning of the 19th, temperatures were in the 50s, with some upper 40s in the northwest. Afternoon readings were in the 70s to around 80 degrees with low relative humidity (35 to 45 percent at most locales).

 

The satellite showed clouds surrounding tropical system Beta ("L") building over Arkansas and then starting to dissipate from the northwest in the ninety six hour period ending at 1000 am CDT 09/24/2020.
Satellite at 1000 am CDT (09/20)  |  Satellite at 1000 am CDT (09/21)
Satellite at 1000 am CDT (09/22)  |  Satellite at 1000 am CDT (09/23)
Satellite at 1000 am CDT (09/24)  |  Loop
In the pictures: The satellite showed clouds surrounding tropical system Beta ("L") building over Arkansas and then starting to dissipate from the northwest in the ninety six hour period ending at 1000 am CDT 09/24/2020.
 

On the 21st, the tropics were in the news again. Tropical Storm Beta, the twenty third named storm in the Atlantic basin this tropical season, wobbled ashore near Port O'Connor, TX. From there, the system turned to the northeast, and our brief stint of tranquil weather ended.

By the morning of the 22nd, cloudbursts reached parts of southwest Arkansas. As of 700 am CDT, Lewisville (Lafayette County) had 5.15 inches of rain, with 3.28 inches at Ashdown (Little River County) and 2.52 inches at Texarkana (Miller County).

In the next twenty four hours, heavy precipitation affected the southern half of the state. Four to five inch totals occurred at Kelso (Desha County), Nashville (Howard County), and Portland (Ashley County), with three to four inches at Malvern (Hot Spring County), Mount Ida (Montgomery County), and Murfreesboro (Pike County).

The deluge continued across the southeast counties on the 23rd/early on the 24th. Five to six inches of liquid was measured at Eudora (Chicot County) and Watson (Desha County). Roads were flooded at Dermott (Chicot County), and this stalled a vehicle along Highway 35. Streets were also under water at Hamburg (Ashley County) and McGehee (Desha County).

 

Beta was the ninth tropical system in the Atlantic basin to make landfall in the United States during the 2020 tropical season.
In the picture: Beta was the ninth tropical system in the Atlantic basin to make landfall in the United States during the 2020 tropical season.
 

Across the north/northwest, some places received less than a quarter of an inch of precipitation for the entire event. This included Flippin (Marion County), Harrison (Boone County), and Mountain Home (Baxter County).

The distribution of showers with Beta closely matched what happened the rest of the month; that is, it was very wet in central and southern Arkansas and very dry in the northwest. Rainfall was more than two inches above average at El Dorado (Union County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and Texarkana (Miller County), and below average by over two inches at Fayetteville (Washington County).

 

Precipitation in September, 2020
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 2.49 4.82 -2.33 52%
Harrison (NC AR) 3.42 4.20 -0.78 81%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 4.51 3.06 +1.45 147%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 7.37 4.05 +3.32 182%
Little Rock (C AR) 3.37 3.18 +0.19 106%
West Memphis (EC AR) 2.00 2.84 -0.84 70%
Texarkana (SW AR) 5.62 3.43 +2.19 164%
El Dorado (SC AR) 7.77 3.11 +4.66 250%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 4.61 2.69 +1.92 171%

 

Prior to the arrival of Beta, rivers across the region were generally in good shape. The Cache River was elevated, but was on the way down. As Beta departed, there was minor flooding along a rising Ouachita River.

 

High temperatures across Arkansas were in the 60s to lower 70s on 09/23/2020.
In the picture: High temperatures across Arkansas were in the 60s to lower 70s on 09/23/2020.
 

Clouds and rain held temperatures well below normal. Readings on the 23rd were only in the 60s to lower 70s. The mercury was under 65 degrees at Clinton (Van Buren County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Newport (Jackson County), Searcy (White County), Stuttgart (Arkansas County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County).

Daily coldest high temperature records were set at several sites, including Batesville (Independence County), Hot Springs (Garland County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Russellville (Pope County).

 

A northwest flow aloft drove cold fronts into Arkansas from the Plains as September, 2020 ended. The flow was between a ridge of high pressure ("H") over the southwest United States and a storm system ("L") to the northeast.
In the picture: A northwest flow aloft drove cold fronts into Arkansas from the Plains as September, 2020 ended. The flow was between a ridge of high pressure ("H") over the southwest United States and a storm system ("L") to the northeast.
 

The door from Canada was wide open as September ended, with a northwest wind flow aloft driving more cold fronts in our direction. One such front crossed the area late on the 27th/early on the 28th, and ushered in a shot of autumn. High temperatures on the 28th/29th were in the 60s/70s, with lows in the 40s/50s. Another front visited by the evening of the 30th, but was preceded by a brief warmup (afternoon readings in the 80s to around 90 degrees).

 

Links of Interest
September 1-2, 2020 (flooding rain/isolated tornadoes)
September 7-13, 2020 (colder with fire to west/Sally in the tropics)
September 15-19, 2020 (Sally makes landfall/turning cooler)
September 21-24, 2020 (here comes Beta/heavy rain)

 

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

 

Temperatures and Precipitation
Temperatures ended up fairly close to normal in September after a warm start and cool finish to the month. Readings at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to right. September, 2020 Temperatures in North Little Rock

 

September, 2020 Precipitation in North Little Rock Precipitation was below to well below average in the northwest and parts of central and northeast Arkansas, and above to well above average elsewhere. Amounts at North Little Rock (Pulaski County) are shown to left.

 

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

 

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