Weather Blog: Benton county tornado on Oct 21, 2019 historic?

Weather

Chief Meteorologist Dan Skoff Looks at the Long-Track Tornado History for Northwest Arkansas

Damage paths for tornado #1 and tornado #2 October 21, 2019

The Tulsa National Weather Service determined two tornadoes touched down in the early morning of Oct. 21st. Full Damage Survey Here:

  • Tornado #1 rated EF-1 was on the ground for 9.1 miles with maximum sustained winds of 90-100 mph and was 9 football fields wide at its widest point.
  • Tornado #2 upgraded to EF-2 with winds 110-120 mph was on the ground for a staggering 31.4 miles and was an astonishing 1.5 miles wide at its widest.
End of Tornado #1
Start of Tornado #2
Tornado #2 Highfill & Cave Springs
Tornado #2 Rogers
Tornado #2 East Rogers
Entire Damage Path

So the BIG question… was tornado #2 record breaking? With the help of the Tulsa NWS and looking back at historic long-track tornadoes in Northwest Arkansas and Benton County… here are the results.

  • The longest track tornado extending into Northwest Arkansas was the June 11, 1970 tornado track, but according to records this path was not continuous. The F3 tornado started in Adair co. and tracked through Washington/Benton counties as you can see by the map below.
Courtesy: Tornado History Project

On April 30, 1954, there was a 41 mile tornado track (may not be continuous) that affected Crawford/Washington counties.

Courtesy: Tornado History Project

The morning after the May 3, 1999 violent tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma, a tornado touched down May 4th in Sequoyah county and tracked through Adair, Crawford and Washington counties with a 39 continuous mile path.

Courtesy: Tornado History Project

Monday’s EF-2 tornado of 31.4 miles long appears to be the longest continuous track on record since 1950 for Benton County. Amazingly and thankfully NO ONE was killed from this tornado, but straight line wind damage did kill a man when a tree fell on his home. The longest track tornado in Arkansas’ history was 121 miles on Feb. 5, 2008.

Widest on Record?

As for width, the Oct 21 tornado was the widest in the Tulsa NWS database for Northwest Arkansas at 1.5 miles, which is about 2,640 yards wide.

The second widest tornado track in the Tulsa county warn area in NWA occurred on May 24, 2011. The Denning/Etna tornado tracked from Franklin County into Newton County and was 2200 yards (1.25 miles) at its widest point.

The Holiday Island tornado on Apr 26, 2017 was 1,500 yards wide (.85 miles).

So in terms of tornado history for the Northwest Arkansas area and Benton county, the Oct. 21, 2019 tornado was in fact historic with path length and width.

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