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Storm Reports
Are you interested in what happened during a recent event? Check out the report below.
 
Severe Outbreak/Heavy Rain/Turning Colder on April 12-15, 2020
 
There was a moderate risk of severe weather from Louisiana and Georgia. and an enhanced risk for adjacent areas of the Gulf Coast and the Tennessee Valley (including Arkansas) for the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on on 04/13/2020. The forecast is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
In the picture: There was a moderate risk of severe weather from Louisiana and Georgia. and an enhanced risk for adjacent areas of the Gulf Coast and the Tennessee Valley (including Arkansas) for the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on on 04/13/2020. The forecast is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
 

In mid-April, we were awaiting a large storm system over the southwest United States. It sat for a few days, but finally ejected toward the middle of the country. In anticipation of the system's arrival on April 12th, the Storm Prediction Center placed parts of the Little Rock County Warning Area in a moderate risk of severe weather in its Day 3 outlook (issued on April 10th). This was only the third time the risk was so high for this area this far out. In other words, it was going to be a big deal, and we needed to pay attention.

 

 

Simulated radar images showed two rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms potentially affecting Arkansas on 04/12/2020. The storms were expected in the late morning/early afternoon over southeast sections of the state, and from west into central sections during the late afternoon and early evening hours.
In the picture: Simulated radar images showed two rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms potentially affecting Arkansas on 04/12/2020. The storms were expected in the late morning/early afternoon over southeast sections of the state, and from west into central sections during the late afternoon and early evening hours.
 

From the get-go, it appeared that the brunt of this event was going to be along the Gulf Coast. This is where the atmosphere was the warmest and most unstable. In Arkansas, the day started somewhat cool with temperatures in the 50s to around 60 degrees. There was a large cluster of showers and embedded thunderstorms in the northern half of the state, and this departing. More storms were headed this way from Texas, and these were already severe.

 

In the video: The satellite loop showed a large cluster of showers and thunderstorms (non-severe) in the northern half of Arkansas during the predawn hours of 04/12/2020. Meanwhile, severe thunderstorms were developing in Texas, and were headed this way.
 

The morning arrival of the Texas storms kept temperatures down locally. By noon CDT, thermometers showed 50s and 60s statewide. For us, this was going to be nothing more than heavy rain and maybe some small hail. To the south and east, it was awful.

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed two confirmed tornadoes just southeast of Prentice, MS and northeast of Soso, MS shortly before 500 pm CDT on 04/12/2020. The northernmost twister (rated EF4/190 mph winds) had a state record width of 3960 yards (2.25 miles) and was the third widest in recorded history nationally.
In the pictures: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed two confirmed tornadoes just southeast of Prentice, MS and northeast of Soso, MS shortly before 500 pm CDT on 04/12/2020. The northernmost twister (rated EF4/190 mph winds) had a state record width of 3960 yards (2.25 miles) and was the third widest in recorded history nationally.
 

Violent and sometimes deadly tornadoes (rated EF3 or higher) were spawned in Louisiana and Mississippi during the afternoon of the 12th, and in Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee after dark and early on the 13th. There were close to eleven dozen tornadoes and three dozen casualties.

 

In the pictures: A tornado (rated at least EF3) caused major damage and killed three people as it tracked just east of Chattanooga, TN late on 04/12/2020. The photos are courtesy of the Hamilton County, TN Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security via Twitter.
 

Just before noon CDT on the 12th, at least 200 to 300 homes were damaged by a tornado in Monroe, LA. In the hours to follow. there was a 100 mile swath of destruction and at least twelve fatalities from Walthall County, MS to Clarke County, MS (south and east of Jackson, MS), including the towns of Bassfield, MS and Soso, MS. Well after dark, a tornado ripped through the east side of Chattanooga, TN and tore up 100 to 200 structures. Three people lost their lives. Seven people were killed when a tornado hit two mobile home parks in Murray County, GA (80 to 90 miles north of Atlanta, GA). Another fatality was reported at Cartersville, GA due to a tree on a home. Near Thomaston, GA, a house was carried from its foundation (fully intact) into the middle of State Highway 74. Nobody was there at the time. Seven more deaths were attributed to tornadoes in Hampton and Orangeburg Counties, SC (70 miles west and northwest of Charleston, SC respectively). A security guard did not make it through a tornado that dismantled an auto manufacturing plant at Seneca, SC.

 

In the picture: A joint statement from National Weather Service offices in Alabama and the Alabama Department of Public Health addressed sheltering during the coronavirus pandemic on 03/22/2020.
 

As this nightmare unfolded, where did people go to stay safe? All across the south, it is customary to open community shelters to protect families when tornadoes are expected. This became a dicey subject due to the coronavirus pandemic and existing stay-at-home orders. In Alabama, the Governor suspended these orders temporarily with a State of Emergency declaration provided that practices (such as social distancing and wearing masks) to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were observed. The Alabama Department of Public Health made seeking refuge from a tornado a top priority: "If a warning is issued for your area, you are more likely to be affected by the tornado than the virus."

 

The warmest/most unstable air (temperatures in the 70s/80s) during this event was found south of a warm front in Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and southern Alabama at 400 pm CDT on 04/12/2020. Meanwhile, much cooler conditions were headed toward Arkansas with a cold front the Plains.
In the picture: The warmest/most unstable air (temperatures in the 70s/80s) during this event was found south of a warm front in Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and southern Alabama at 400 pm CDT on 04/12/2020. Meanwhile, much cooler conditions were headed toward Arkansas with a cold front the Plains.
 

Back at home, after this first round of storms passed to our south and east, the sun came out during the afternoon of the 12th and it warmed into the 60s and 70s. The main system to the southwest was nearing, as was a strong cold front from the Plains. Conditions started doing downhill in a hurry.

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed severe thunderstorms surging from western into central Arkansas, with more severe weather in portions of Alabama and Mississippi at 758 pm CDT on 04/12/2020.
In the picture: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed severe thunderstorms surging from western into central Arkansas, with more severe weather in portions of Alabama and Mississippi at 758 pm CDT on 04/12/2020.
 

A line of thunderstorms formed just ahead of the front, and rapidly crossed Arkansas. The line had bowing segments, indicating that powerful winds were driving the storms forward and causing them to bulge outward. Severe Thunderstorm Warnings were first issued between 530 pm and 600 pm CDT, and continued for five hours until the storms moved east of the Mississippi River. The storms produced damaging wind gusts from 60 to more than 80 mph, and knocked out power to at least 150,000 utility customers.

 

 

View From the Ground
In the pictures: A very large tree landed on a home at White Hall (Jefferson County), killing a resident. Behind the home, a large section of trees was mowed down. The photos are courtesy of Brian Emfinger via Twitter (from aloft) and John Robinson (from the ground).
 

There were numerous reports of trees and power lines downed, with trees blocking roads in some cases. Trees fell on residences, resulting in a death at White Hall (Jefferson County) and an injury at Glen Rose (Hot Spring County). Outbuildings and sheds were damaged or destroyed. A roof was blown off of a poultry farm on Highway 154 north of Danville (Yell County). A 68 mph gust was measured at Petit Jean State Park (Conway County).

In some cases, pockets of concentrated damage were reported to the National Weather Service, with a suspicion that brief spin ups/weak tornadoes were responsible. Such areas extended from west of Barber to south of Booneville (both in Logan County) and from Benton to East End (both in Saline County). It was concluded that straight-line wind gusts from 80 mph up to 110 mph snapped trees and utility poles and caused minor structural damage.

 

 

Severe weather reports in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on 04/13/2020. There were more than 1000 instances of wind damage and at least 130 tornadoes. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
In the picture: Severe weather reports in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on 04/13/2020. There were more than 1000 instances of wind damage and at least 130 tornadoes. The graphic is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center.
 

Along with the wind, there was ping pong ball size hail near Hampton (Calhoun County), half dollar size hail at Louann (Ouachita County), and quarter size hail at Humphrey (Arkansas/Jefferson Counties), Rose Bud (White County), and Wooster (Faulkner County).

 

So Many Power Outages/Federal Disaster Declaration

The roughly 150,000 power outages counted in Arkansas was more than any other state affected by the severe weather outbreak of April 12th and 13th. The majority of the outages were south of Interstate 40. Twelve (12) counties across the south were eventually declared federal disaster areas. This included Arkansas, Bradley, Cleveland, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Monroe, Ouachita, and Phillips Counties. According to the Entergy Arkansas President and CEO (via Twitter): "This was a significant storm event. Early assessments for some areas reveal damage comparable to the back-to-back ice storms in December of 2000." These colossal ice episodes were separated by a couple of weeks, and are widely regarded as the most destructive and costliest natural disasters known in the state.

 

More than three inches of rain dumped from central and southern Arkansas to the Tennessee Valley in the thirty six hour period ending at 1100 pm CDT on 04/12/2020.
In the picture: More than three inches of rain dumped from central and southern Arkansas to the Tennessee Valley in the thirty six hour period ending at 1100 pm CDT on 04/12/2020.
 

Much of Arkansas received one to more than three inches of rain, with the heaviest amounts over central and southern sections of the state. Monticello (Drew County) had an estimated 3.73 inches of precipitation on the 12th, breaking a daily record that stood since 1877. Through the 12th, it was no surprise that monthly totals were above to well above average (by one to more than two inches in central/southern sections).

 

Precipitation in April, 2020 (Through the 12th)
Site Amount Normal +/- % of Normal
Fayetteville (NW AR) 2.29 1.70 +0.59 135%
Harrison (NC AR) 2.48 1.53 +0.95 162%
Jonesboro (NE AR) 2.88 1.85 +1.03 156%
Fort Smith (WC AR) 4.15 1.59 +2.56 261%
Little Rock (C AR) 3.01 1.95 +1.06 154%
West Memphis (EC AR) 2.78 1.63 +1.15 171%
Texarkana (SW AR) 3.42 1.49 +1.93 230%
El Dorado (SC AR) 2.71 1.61 +1.10 168%
Pine Bluff (SE AR) 3.77 1.96 +1.81 192%

 

Low temperatures were well below average on 04/13/2020, with readings in the 30s and 40s.
Low Temperatures (04/13)  |  Low Temperatures (04/14)
Low Temperatures (04/15)
In the picture: Low temperatures were well below average three mornings in a row (April 13-15, 2020). Readings were in the 30s and 40s, with some 20s on the 15th.
 

It turned much colder after the storms were gone. Northwest winds gusted at 30 to 40 mph, and the mercury dropped in the 30s and 40s on the morning of the 13th. It was at or just below freezing in the far northwest. This included Bentonville, Highfill, and Rogers (all in Benton County). It was 33 degrees at Fayetteville (Washington County) and Harrison (Boone County).

The story was the same early on the 14th, with temperatures hovering around freezing at a few spots in the Ozark Mountains (northern Arkansas).

On the 15th, a more widespread freeze happened over mainly the northern and central counties, and there were areas of frost. It was 26 degrees at Marshall (Searcy County), 27 degrees at Flippin (Marion County) and Jessieville (Garland County), 28 degrees at Clinton (Van Buren County), Evening Shade (Sharp County), and Mena (Polk County), and 29 degrees at Calico Rock (Izard County), Fayetteville (Washington County), Lead Hill (Boone County), Marche (Pulaski County), Silver Hill (Searcy County), and Waldron (Scott County).  

 

In the picture: There was a half inch of snow in Harrison (Boone County) early on 04/14/2020, which was tied for the third latest measurable snow on record.
 

In addition to the cold, there was a little light snow in the northwest on the 14th, including a dusting of flakes at Harrison (Boone County). It was the third latest (tied with the same day in 1980) measurable snow at the site since records began in 1891.

 

 

Storm Reports
Preliminary reports of severe weather in the Little Rock County Warning Area on April 12, 2020 (in red).
Submit a storm report.
There were numerous reports of damaging winds and hail in central and southern Arkansas on April 12th. For a look at the reports, click here.
 
Link of Interest
Plot Reports
In the picture: Preliminary reports of severe weather in the Little Rock County Warning Area on April 12, 2020 (in red).