Weather Blog: 2020 Yearly Review

Weather Blog
Sunset in Sonora on August 12, 2020. Image Katrina Hayes

2020 has come and gone and now let’s take a look back at some of the significant weather events around the area that occurred last year.

January – March Review

It was not long before we saw our first severe weather event. On January 10, severe thunderstorms brought wind damage to parts of northern, central, and eastern Arkansas. 11 tornadoes were produced during the overnight hours. This includes an EF-2 tornado in Corely, AR (Logan County) and an EF-1 tornado in Poping, AR (Franklin County).

Later in the month, a winter storm brought 0.25-0.75″ of ice in the higher elevation of the Ozarks.

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Ice on the trees in Fallsville, AR (Newton County). Image: Villa Friesen

February saw significant weather in central and southern Arkansas where 3-5″ of rain fell between February 9-12. Flash flooding was reported in Scott and Yell Counties.

March was fairly quiet in terms of significant weather until the end of the month. On March 26, the official observing sites at Harrison, Fort Smith, and El Dorado recorded 90s with the rest of Arkansas seeing mid-upper 80s.

Perhaps the most memorable weather event in Arkansas this past Spring was the EF-3 Jonesboro tornado on March 28. Carving a 12-mile path into the landscape of Craighead County, the tornado injured 22 people.

Shortly after the Jonesboro tornado, two more tornados hit Craighead and Poinsett Counties on April 8. One of these tornadoes struck northern Harrisburg, damaging or destroying at least 30 homes in addition to uprooting trees and downing power lines.

April – June Review

Easter Sunday was anything by a tranquil Spring day in southern Arkansas. Severe thunderstorms brought damaging winds to the region. Unfortunately, there was a fatality at White Hall when a tree fell on a house. 12 counties in Arkansas were declared disaster areas.

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Cloud-ground lightning from a Springtime thunderstorm. Image: Cody Hudson

May started off with a bang, and unfortunately it wasn’t the good kind. Severe storms on May 4 hit Northwest Arkansas and dropped baseball to softball size hail in Fayetteville, Rogers, and Shady Grove. Damage to windshields, dents in vehicles, and metal roofs was reported throughout the area.

A report in Washington County, southeast of Johnson, observed a 5-inch diameter hail stone. This tied the Arkansas state record for largest hailstone.

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5-inch diameter hailstone in Fayetteville from May 4, 2020 severe storms. Image: Judy Rownak

A little over a week later, damaging winds knocked down trees in Fayetteville on May 15.

On May 22-23, between 3-5″ of rain fell in portions of the River Valley in Sebastian, Scott, Logan, Polk, Montgomery, Pike, Garland and Clark Counties. This led to severe flash flooding in the cities of Waldron, Norman, and Booneville.

Late June brought a layer of Saharan dust to Arkansas. This set the stage for hazy conditions throughout the region but provided some colorful sunsets.

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Colorful sunset in late June. Image: Pat Timmons

July – September Review

On July 9, severe storms downed trees in Fayetteville, Alma, near Havana (Yell County), and Furlow (Lonoke County). Early morning thunderstorms dumped 2-4 inches of rain in western Arkansas.

It was a rainy month in August for Arkansas. Repeated rounds throughout the month dropped 10 – almost 20 inches in rain for many in southwest and western Arkansas. Dierks and Mena saw the heaviest amounts of rain. Dierks set a statewide monthly rainfall record for August with 19.71 inches. The previous record was 19.55 inches at Hardy (Sharp County) back in 1915.

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Flooding due to heavy rain in Dog Branch. Image: Les Murphy

The end of August featured Hurricane Laura and the storm’s remnants bringing heavy rain, tropical storm-force sustained winds (39-74 mph), and tornadoes. Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley remained on the western side of the storm and stayed relatively dry. However, places in central, eastern, and southern Arkansas picked up between 6-9 inches of rain for many.

Time lapse of Hurricane Laura’s life cycle.

September brought flash flooding to Waldron, AR after 7.00 inches fell in a 24-hour period on September 1. This led to severe flash flooding in Scott and Polk County.

The next day, the Petit Jean River at Danville, AR crested at 26.62 feet. This is the highest stage the river reached in 5-years and the 10th highest stage on record.

From September 22-24, heavy rain in the southern half of Arkansas from the remnants of Tropical Storm Beta dropped 6-7 inches of rain in numerous places.

Visible Satellite Image of Tropical Storm Beta. Image: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-East ABI GEOCOLOR

October – December Review

A few weeks later, on October 9-11, the remnants of Hurricane Delta clipped far southeast Arkansas, dropping 2-4″ of rain in areas.

Northwest Arkansas saw most of its rainfall for October at the end of the month. Heavy rain from October 28-30 lead to flash flooding in the River Valley where 5-8 inches of rain fell.

Flash flooding in Strickler, AR (Washington County)
from heavy rain on October 28, 2020. Image: Mandy Eiland

Heading into the middle of November, severe storms passed over Arkansas and brought strong winds to the central and northeast regions of the state. In fact, wind gusts overturned train cars at Hoxie (Lawrence County in NE Arkansas). Luckily, no one was injured.

A weak tornado touched down for two miles near Romance in White County. Along its path, damage was reported to several mobile homes and uprooted or snapped trees. Unfortunately, four injuries were reported from the storms.

Local storm report from NWS Tulsa confirming an EF-1 tornado in Spiro, OK on November 24, 2020.

Right before Thanksgiving, severe weather passed over Arkansas, this time producing a tornado near Spiro, Oklahoma (just outside of Fort Smith, AR). The National Weather Service in Tulsa confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down as storms rolled through on the evening of November 24.

December 2020 brought Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley its first significant snowfall in over 5-years.

Pine trees covered in the snow in Pea Ridge. Image: Wonderland Christmas Tree Farm

Areas in Benton County measured 4-6″ of snow with Fayetteville reporting 2.8″ of snow.

Estimated snowfall totals from the December 13 2020 snowstorm. Image: NWS Tulsa

The year ended on a cold, rainy, and even icy note for some. Freezing rain fell in portions Northwest Arkansas (mainly the higher elevations in Newton, Carroll, Madison, and Benton Counties). Ice accumulation totals ranged from 1/4 to 1/2 inches. The lower elevations saw a bone chilling rain.

Ice covered trees in western Newton County on January 1 2021. Image Marysia Jastrzebski

2020 Arkansas Statewide Statistics

When looking at monthly averages for the state of Arkansas, the following ones were warmer than average: January, February, March, July, November, December. The months that were colder than average for Arkansas were April, May, June, August, September, and October.

Overall, 2020 was a relatively wet year for Arkansas. Only two months (November and December) saw below average precipitation for the state. Arkansas saw above average precipitation for all the other months. The Natural State saw snowfall in January, February, April, November, and December.

This past year, 44 tornadoes impacted Arkansas, which is above the statewide average of 39 for any given year. The most significant tornado was the EF-3 twister that impacted Jonesboro and Brookland. Luckily, there were no fatalities due to tornadoes in 2020.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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