Tracking Laura: Activity will settle down overnight

Around Arkansas

9:30 p.m., Thursday Update:

Just before 10 p.m. Thursday, the most concerning activity resides across far northern Arkansas and will be lifting out of the state around midnight. After that, the weather will begin to quiet down for the remainder of the night. Some windiness will still remain along with scattered showers but tornadic weather and wind gusts above 40 MPH will come to an end.

More than two dozen storm reports have come in today from Laura as it has tracked through Arkansas. Many are reports of downed trees and powerlines.

Throughout the day, max wind gusts have been right on point with our forecast. Most of the peak values have ranged from 45 to 50 MPH with the highest reports near El Dorado which peaked near 60 MPH.

5 p.m., Thursday Update:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- A Tornado Watch has been extended for the following counties until 9 p.m. Thursday: Cleburne, Faulkner, Independence, Jackson, White, Woodruff, Arkansas, Desha, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Lonoke, Monroe, Prairie and Pulaski counties.

2 p.m., Thursday UPDATE:

The center of Laura is crossing the AR/LA border at this time.

The latest analysis shows that Laura is a little more east than previously forecast and is a little faster as well.

Because of this, higher rainfall amounts will be more likely for mainly the east 1/2 of Arkansas.

We are still expecting an additional 2-4 inches of rainfall through Friday morning.

With regards to wind, we’ve already observed peak wind gusts in far south Arkansas near 60 mph.

Peak wind gusts in central Arkansas could reach near 50 mph.

Sustained wind speeds will range from 20 to 40 mph as forecast.

The isolated tornado threat has lowered for today but is not zero. The slight east shift of the core is placing more of the concern over Mississippi. That being said, a tornado watch still remains in effect through 4 PM for mainly the SE 1/4 of the state.

All activity will diminish quite a bit as we head into the overnight hours.

9:00 a.m., Thursday UPDATE:

As of 9 AM, the National Hurricane Center has downgraded Hurricane Laura to a Category 1 Hurricane with maximum sustained wind speeds of 85 mph. The storm will continue to weaken and will most likely be a tropical storm (wind below 74 mph) when it enters South Arkansas around Noon Thursday.

A Tornado Watch has been issued for Southeast Arkansas and much of Central Arkansas, including Pulaski County until 4 PM. A line of thunderstorms is expected to move and train northward through SE Arkansas well east of the center of circulation of Laura. Tornadoes may quickly spin up. Stay Weather Aware.

6:30 a.m., Thursday UPDATE:

Hurricane Laura made landfall Wednesday night as a strong Category 4 Hurricane with maximum sustained wind speeds of 150 mph and gusts up to 185. The storm is rapidly weakening, but it has a long way to go before it is “weak.” It will likely still be a tropical storm (wind speed 39-73 mph) when it enters South AR early Thursday afternoon.

Tropical storm-force wind will be likely in South Arkansas by Noon and then in Central Arkansas Thursday evening and through Thursday night. Wind speeds in Central Arkansas may be as high as 40 mph with some gusts of 45-50 mph.

Laura will bring heavy rain through Thursday and Friday. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect until 7 PM, Friday.

3-6″ of rain is expected with a handful of places possibly receiving 7-8″ of rain.

In addition to the sustained wind and flooding rain, severe weather including tornadoes will be possible.

The Tornado Potential will be highest in SE and East Arkansas from the late afternoon into the evening hours. 4 PM-10 PM.

10:30 p.m., Wednesday UPDATE:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Storm Team gave an update at 8 p.m. on the local impact Hurricane Laura will have on the Natural State.

Watch above.

Wednesday Evening (8-26-2020) Update:

As of 10 p.m. CDT, Hurricane Laura was a category 4 hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 150 mph. It is expected to make landfall just after midnight tonight along the Louisiana coastline near the LA/TX border as a powerful, life-threatening storm.

After making landfall it will continue on a northward track and weaken to a tropical storm before the center of Laura moves into the state.

Timing-wise, the graphic below shows the estimated time of arrival for the impacts Laura will have on the state. Heavy rainfall, wind gusts up to 50 mph plus, and isolated tornadoes will all be concerns we need to monitor.

Looking at rainfall, amounts around the center of where Laura tracks through the state will be highest. We are forecast a corridor of rainfall amounts to range from 4 to 6 inches. A few isolated amounts of 6 inches plus cannot be ruled out.

Because of the high rainfall amounts, a flash flood watch has been issued for this area through 7 PM, Friday.

Wind will be another problem. In fact, we could have in areas of SW Arkansas sustained wind speeds between 30-40 mph with gusts near 60 mph. Due to this, a tropical storm warning is in effect for this part of the state. This is the first time a tropical storm warning has been issued like this in the state of Arkansas.

As Laura continues to move into the state, it will be gradually weakening so peak wind gusts will be lowering as it moves into central and northern Arkansas but could still top out near 50 mph in some locations.

The final impact we will be monitoring for areas of Arkansas will be the potential for a few isolated tornadoes. Anytime you have tropical systems move inland, the east side of the core must be watched as storms circulate around the core. That circulation helps create spin in those storms so it only takes a little more energy for spin-ups to occur.

By late Thursday night into early Friday morning, the most active part of the event should begin to wind down but impacts will continue into Friday like rain and gusty winds (mainly far east Arkansas) before all of this finally moves out.

Wednesday Morning (8-26-2020) Update

As of 7 a.m. CDT, Hurricane Laura was upgraded to a Category 3 Hurricane with winds up to 115 mph. Overnight, the tropical system continued rapidly intensifying, developing a defined eye-wall with strong winds. Strengthening of the hurricane is still likely before landfall late Wednesday night. The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has Laura reaching Category 4 hurricane status Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Laura is forecast to make landfall as a MAJOR HURRICANE. Regardless of the category number, this will still be a very strong storm that results in possibly catastrophic damage to the northwestern Gulf of Mexico bringing extreme winds, high storm surge and flash flooding.

Due to the serious impacts coming to the Louisiana and Texas coastline as well as inland as the storm tracks north, hurricane warnings, storm surge warnings and tropical storm warnings have been issued in advance of the tropical system’s arrival.

Tropical storm warnings stretch into southwest Arkansas, while a tropical storm watch includes parts of south central Arkansas through Thursday.

There has been very little change to the potential path of Laura coming through Arkansas Thursday into Friday. The timing still looks to be that the core of Laura will start pushing into southwest Arkansas Thursday late afternoon. Rain bands may extend into the state before that, however, the greatest impacts will be felt when the center of rotation arrives in the state. From Thursday late afternoon to Friday afternoon, Laura will be impacting the Natural State.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Oklahoma has outlined an area of MARGINAL (5%) and SLIGHT (15%) risk for severe weather in Arkansas Thursday extending into Friday. Any tropical system moving over land is capable of producing severe weather with not only flash flooding and damaging wind a threat, but there is also the possibility for tornadoes to form. As rain bands swirl over land, the friction at the surface can sometimes lead to brief areas of rotation that produce weak tornadoes. While there is not a high chance for tornadic development, we cannot completely rule them out of the forecast. It’s also important to note that these tropical tornadoes are very hard to predict as to where they will form. They will likely be weak and short-lived.

Our greatest concern in Arkansas, however, will be excessive rainfall. Much of central Arkansas, well almost the entire state actually, has a MODERATE risk for excessive rainfall Thursday. The area shaded in red lines up almost perfectly with the highest forecast rainfall totals. Three to five inches of rain will be possible across central Arkansas with localized higher amounts up to seven inches.

Due to the high rainfall totals in the forecast, the National Weather Service in Little Rock has issued a Flash Flood Watch for much of central Arkansas until 7 p.m. Friday.

To review flooding safety plans, make your own or learn more about the nature of flash flooding, click HERE.

The combination of heavy rainfall and strong winds could lead to trees and/or power lines coming down. We will likely see power outages across the state Thursday into Friday. Make sure you have your NOAA Weather Radios turned on and gather flash lights should your home lose power. Keeping extra batteries on standby and charging mobile devices is also a good idea.

Tuesday Evening (8-25-2020) Update

Marco was downgraded to a Post-Tropical Cyclone Tuesday morning. Maximum sustained winds are 30 mph or less. It will only aid in the development of daytime showers and thunderstorms in portions of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Laura strengthened into a hurricane Tuesday morning as it entered the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. As of 7 p.m. CDT, Laura has winds of 85 mph.

As of Tuesday evening, the forecast from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is for Laura to make landfall Wednesday night into Thursday morning anywhere from as far west as Houston, Texas to east of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Before then the hurricane will strengthen in the warm undisturbed waters of the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico. It is forecasted to become a Category 2 Hurricane Wednesday with maximum sustained wind speeds of at least 96 mph. Before landfall, the NHC is forecasting Laura to reach Major Hurricane status as a Category 3 Hurricane with maximum sustained wind speeds of at least 111 mph.

Weakening will quickly occur when it does make landfall. Hurricane Warnings and Watches along with Storm Surge Watches have been issued for parts of the northwestern Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana.

After making landfall, Laura’s core has the potential to move right over Arkansas. Even at that, there is still about a 200-mile range of where the core could track while moving inland based on the width of NHC’s forecast cone.

The track of Laura’s potential path has shifted a bit further west though. Laura’s core could move through west-central Arkansas Thursday night through Friday. This westward shift would result in more potential impacts for the Natural State.

A swath of heavy rainfall will likely accompany the core of Laura as it moves through Arkansas Thursday night and Friday which may produce 2-5″ of rain. Due to the lack of recent rain, flash flooding may not be a huge concern. Rainfall rates will have to exceed 4″/ 6 hours to produce flash flooding for most of Arkansas. In a smaller increment of time, rainfall totals will have to exceed a rate of 2.5″/hour to produce flash flooding. Flash Flooding appears to be a borderline issue, so do not be surprised if Flash Flood Watches are issued by the National Weather Service some time Wednesday or Thursday to err on the side of caution.

To learn more about how to prepare for flooding rains and how to stay safe during flash flooding, click HERE.

As with all land-falling tropical systems there will be a threat of severe weather including tornadoes. That will most likely be east of the center of circulation. Initially that will most likely be in Louisiana and perhaps Mississippi Wednesday night and Thursday. Then to a lesser extent, because the storm will have weakened, in Arkansas and Tennessee Thursday night and Friday. Sustained winds will likely be around 30 mph as Laura moves through Arkansas with gusts upwards of 50 mph.

Monday Evening (8-24-2020) Update

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- As of 7 PM CDT, Monday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has adjusted the lastest forecasts for both Marco and Laura. Arkansas weather impacts have also been updated below.

As of 6 p.m. CDT, Marco made landfall along the mouth of the Mississippi River as a weak tropical storm. The system has struggled to maintain intensity as it interacted with faster wind speeds aloft over the U.S. It is forecast to continue weakening, becoming a tropical depression overnight as it moves west over Louisiana and into Texas.

For Arkansas, the impact of Marco will be minimal. On Tuesday, we could see some rain bands from Marco reach southern sections of the state but that would be it.

Tropical Storm Laura: Through Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center expects Laura to keep on a north-northwest track before turning more northwest and eventually north prior to making landfall somewhere along the Louisiana/Texas coastline late Wednesday night.

It is important to point out that the Hurricane Center has increased Laura’s forecast intensity. Before landfall, it could strengthen to category two hurricane status. That would mean sustained wind speeds ranging from 96-110 mph.

After making landfall, Laura’s core has the potential to move right over Arkansas. However, as of Monday evening, there is still about a 275-mile range of where the core could track while moving inland based on the width of the forecast cone.

A more westward track (core moving over east Texas and Oklahoma) would mean a higher impact on Arkansas weather. A more eastward track (core moving over parts of Louisiana & Mississippi) would mean a lower impact. If the core moves right over Arkansas, you can expect multiple inches of rain, sustained wind speeds up to 40 mph. Isolated tornado potential would likely remain confined to far east Arkansas.

We are getting a better idea of how these systems will impact Arkansas weather but there are some key uncertainties over the 24 to 36 hours that need to play before a solid, consistent, and high confidence game plan is known. As of Monday evening, the scenario of Laura’s core moving over central sections of the state is being most favored.

Arkansas Impacts:

Based on the latest forecast guidance, Arkansas weather will be influenced mostly by Laura.

Confidence is growing but more data, especially by Tuesday, will give us a firm idea of how this plays out.

This is what we know:

Marco will have a low impact on Arkansas weather as the core stays along the coast. Laura will have the most influence.

Thursday will be the day we have the most impact from Laura. It will move out late early Friday morning.

As mentioned above, Laura’s track will be key. More west means more impact. More east means, less impact.

Will we get rain? It’s very likely despite a more west or east track.

How much rain could we get? That is nearly impossible to determine with high confidence at this time. It depends heavily on how Laura tracks. West = more rain. East= less rain. For the rice farmers, I think they would prefer the lower rain option this time of year.

Could we have severe weather? Again, it all depends on the track. More west= severe more likely. More east= severe weather less likely.

If we had to deal with severe weather, isolated tornadoes would be the main concern. Flash flooding wouldn’t be out of the question either. Sustained wind speeds could range from 30 to 50 mph Thursday.

Please check back often for updates as this forecast evolves. For an in-depth video, CLICK HERE.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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