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Big Hailstorms/Some Wind Damage on May 3-4, 2020
 
Storm reports in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on 05/04/2020. Strong to damaging winds and large hail were common from southeast Kansas into southwest Missouri, northern Arkansas, and on into Tennessee.
In the picture: Storm reports in the twenty four hour period ending at 700 am CDT on 05/04/2020. Strong to damaging winds and large hail were common from southeast Kansas into southwest Missouri, northern Arkansas, and on into Tennessee.
 

May started off with a bang on the 3rd. A cold front to the north of Arkansas wobbled toward the state, and strong to severe thunderstorms in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri tracked along the front into the region. Along the way, there was a swath of large hail and damaging winds.

 

In the video: The satellite loop showed a large cluster of showers and thunderstorms heading from southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri into northern Arkansas from around 900 am to 200 pm CDT on 05/03/2020.
 

The storms arrived in northwest Arkansas in areas toward the Missouri border between 1030 am and 1100 am CDT. From there, the storms made a beeline toward western Tennessee, and crossed the Mississippi River by 300 pm CDT.

 

Hail up to tennis ball size was noted at Mountain Home (Baxter County) on 05/03/2020, although the largest stones in the photo reached the size of ping pong balls. The photo is courtesy of Shelia Feeney.
In the picture: Hail up to tennis ball size was noted at Mountain Home (Baxter County) on 05/03/2020, although the largest stones in the photo reached the size of ping pong balls. The photo is courtesy of Shelia Feeney.
 

Hail was significant, with up to tennis ball size hail around Mountain Home (Baxter County). There were golf ball to hen egg size stones near Lakeview, Midway, and Norfork (all in Baxter County), Omaha (Boone County), Peel (Marion County), and Yellville (Marion County). Half dollar size stones were reported at Calico Rock (Izard County), with quarters at Melbourne (Izard County) and Sidney (Sharp County).

Just across the northern border, hail was even larger in southern Missouri. Baseball size stones pelted areas near Avilla, MO, Protem, MO, and Table Rock, MO.

 

In the picture: A mesoscale discussion from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) expressed concern about a cluster of strong to severe thunderstorms in southern Missouri moving into northern Arkansas during the late morning/afternoon hours of 05/03/2020. The discussion addressed a possible Severe Thunderstorm Watch across the northern counties, which was eventually issued (from 1145 am to 600 pm CDT).
 

Mostly wind damage occurred in northeast sections of the state. Trees and/or power lines were downed at Brookland (Craighead County), Corning and Rector (both in Clay County), Dell and Osceola (both in Mississippi County), and Evening Shade (Sharp County). A carport was damaged a few miles northeast of Jonesboro (Craighead County). A 61 mph gust was measured at Hoxie (Lawrence County).

 

Nightmare in Middle Tennessee

Storms in northeast Arkansas raced to the east, and arrived in Nashville, TN between 400 pm and 500 pm CDT on the 3rd. Hundreds of trees were toppled by powerful straight-line winds, including a 200-year-old oak tree at a local middle school. There was a 72 mph gust at the Nashville International Airport. At least 130,000 power outages were reported, affecting one in three Nashville Electric Service customers. The president and CEO of the company mentioned this was the largest number of outages in his almost thirty year career.

 

There was a wide range of temperatures across Arkansas at 200 pm CDT on 05/03/2020. Readings ranged from the mid 60s in the north to the mid 80s in the south.
In the picture: There was a wide range of temperatures across Arkansas at 200 pm CDT on 05/03/2020. Readings ranged from the mid 60s in the north to the mid 80s in the south.
 

Storminess in the north dropped temperatures into the 60s. At 200 pm CDT, it was 64 degrees at Harrison (Boone County) and Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County), and 66 degrees at Mountain Home (Baxter County). Meanwhile, away from the rain, it was 84 degrees at Texarkana (Miller County) and 85 degrees at El Dorado (Union County). 

 

The forecast map during the evening of 05/03/2020 showed a cold front pushing from northern into central Arkansas. Severe weather was along the front to the east of the state. The front wobbled back to the north the next day, with more severe storms north of Little Rock (Pulaski County).
Forecast Map (05/03)  |  Forecast Map (05/04)
In the pictures: The forecast map during the evening of 05/03/2020 showed a cold front pushing from northern into central Arkansas. Severe weather was along the front to the east of the state. The front wobbled back to the north the next day, with more severe storms north of Little Rock (Pulaski County).
 

The aforementioned front drifted toward central Arkansas after dark on the 3rd, but headed back to the north on the 4th in response to an approaching storm system in the southern Plains. That triggered more storms north of Little Rock (Pulaski County), some of which were severe.

 

Simulated radar showed two rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms on 05/04/2020. Round one was in southern Missouri during the late morning and early afternoon hours, with some storms getting into northern Arkansas. Round two was toward evening in the northwest counties from eastern Oklahoma.
In the pictures: Simulated radar showed two rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms on 05/04/2020. Round one was in southern Missouri during the late morning and early afternoon hours, with some storms getting into northern Arkansas. Round two was toward evening in the northwest counties from eastern Oklahoma.
 

Just before 930 am CDT, there was already tennis ball to baseball size hail in Baxter Springs, KS and Jay, OK, and this was coming toward us.

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a supercell (storm with rotating updrafts) near Bentonville (Benton County) at 1015 am CDT on 05/04/2020. On the southwest side of the storm, there was a classic hook echo and some rotation but no tornado. Meanwhile, a large overhang suggested that powerful updrafts were suspending hailstones aloft so they could grow.
In the picture: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a supercell (storm with rotating updrafts) near Bentonville (Benton County) at 1015 am CDT on 05/04/2020. On the southwest side of the storm, there was a classic hook echo and some rotation but no tornado. Meanwhile, a large overhang suggested that powerful updrafts were suspending hailstones aloft so they could grow.
 

By the time it got here (1000 am to 1100 am CDT), baseball to softball size stones were noted at Fayetteville (Washington County), Rogers (Benton County), and Shady Grove (Washington County)! This broke windshields, and dented vehicles and metal roofs.

Just southeast of Johnson (Washington County), a five inch diameter hailstone was observed. This tied the state record for the largest hail on January 21, 1999 and April 2, 2006.

 

How Rare is Huge Hail?

With the exception of 2005 and 2013, baseball size or larger hail was observed in Arkansas at least once a year since 1980 (through 2019). Hail at least softball size occurred once every other year (20 of 40 years). As far as numbers of reports, of the roughly 5,625 instances of quarter size or larger hail, 2,414 were at least golf balls (42.9% of reports), 246 were at least baseballs (4.4% of reports), and 48 were at least softballs (0.9% of reports). Benton, Garland, Polk, Pulaski, Sebastian, Washington, and White Counties (central and western sections of the state) had the most reports (60 or more) of golf ball size hail or larger. This was partly due to population density. The largest hailstones were five inches in diameter (slightly larger than a DVD) on January 21, 1999 and April 2, 2006.

 

Severe weather watches and warnings were posted from eastern Oklahoma into southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, western Tennessee, and northern Mississippi at 600 pm CDT on 05/04/2020.
In the picture: Severe weather watches and warnings were posted from eastern Oklahoma into southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, western Tennessee, and northern Mississippi at 600 pm CDT on 05/04/2020.
 

Farther east (through the early afternoon), there were golf balls at Swifton (Jackson County) and just south of Jonesboro (Craighead County), and ping pong balls at Cash (Craighead County), Jasper and Mount Sherman (both in Newton County).

 

The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a cluster of strong to severe thunderstorms exiting Arkansas to the east (Round 1), with more storms on the horizon in eastern Oklahoma (Round 2) at 548 pm CDT on 05/04/2020. There was a large temperature difference across the state. Readings were in the 60s in the north and 80s in central and southern sections.
In the picture: The WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) showed a cluster of strong to severe thunderstorms exiting Arkansas to the east (Round 1), with more storms on the horizon in eastern Oklahoma (Round 2) at 548 pm CDT on 05/04/2020. There was a large temperature difference across the state. Readings were in the 60s in the north and 80s in central and southern sections.
 

By 600 pm CDT, the morning/afternoon storms were on their way out, and more storms were erupting in southwest Missouri and eastern Oklahoma. Again, there was a lot of huge hail (golf balls to baseballs), and the potential for isolated tornadoes as the storms approached western Arkansas.

As the evening progressed, there was a gradual weakening trend and only a few storms were severe locally. There was quarter size hail at Dardanelle (Yell County) and Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and close to 50 mph gusts at Russellville (Pope County). 

 

Storm Reports
Preliminary reports of severe weather in the Little Rock County Warning Area on May 3-4, 2020 (in red).
Submit a storm report.
There were numerous reports of large hail and spotty wind damage in northern Arkansas on May 3rd and 4th. 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 May 3-4, 2020 (in red).