Weather Blog: May 2021 monthly review

Weather Blog

A look back at the weather in NW Arkansas & the River Valley in May 2021!

May was cool and wet this year, but it’s the severe weather events many will remember May 2021 for.

Climatologically, the month of May is known for storms in NW Arkansas and the River Valley, and we certainly got it this year. Here is a look back at the two main severe weather events from last month.

Monday, May 3 2021 River Valley Tornadoes

Monday, May 3 brought severe weather to the region after a large enhanced risk (level 3/5) was issued by the Storm Prediction Center. Severe storms developed in eastern Oklahoma and pushed into NW Arkansas and the River Valley during the evening hours Monday.

Around 9:30 P.M., two EF-1 tornadoes (winds 86-110 mph) touched down in the Fort Smith region.

The first tornado started a few miles southeast of Muldrow, OK, and continued for 28.8 miles into Arkansas. This twister carved a path through Van Buren before dissipating. The tornado caused significant damage to homes, businesses, and the Van Buren Courthouse. The National Weather Service (NWS) in Tulsa reported a maximum width of 1.25 miles for this tornado. It was also the largest tornado to touchdown.

The second one carved a 10.3-mile path through Roland, Oklahoma. It started just east of Muldrow, OK, and continued for 11 minutes until it was 3.5 miles west of Rena. This tornado was fairly narrow (only 900 yards wide). That’s about the same size as 9 football fields next to each other.

The third & final EF-1 twister occurred in Dyer, Arkansas. The tornado was on the ground for only 4 minutes and carved a 2.7-mile path. The smallest of the 3 tornadoes to impact the region, this tornado reached a maximum width of 300 yards (3 football fields).

Thursday, May 27 Severe Storms

Strong storms rolled through the region during the late afternoon and evening hours on Thursday, May 27. Unlike the storms earlier in the month, no tornadoes were reported as these storms passed over us.

However, many remember the distinctive shelf cloud on the leading edge of the storms. Here are a few images we captured from our WeatherBug Network Cameras in Huntsville and Bentonville.

Heavy rain and hail was also reported throughout the region as the storms passed over NW Arkansas and the River Valley. Radar estimates from the event show widespread 1-2″ of rain across the area. Remember, most of this fell in only about 1-1.5 hours.


Drake Field in Fayetteville recorded an average daily mean temperature of 63.6°F, which is 1.7°F below-average (65.3°F). May 2021 ranks as the 15th coldest May on record for Drake Field since records have been kept at the site.

The highest temperature recorded in May was 86°F on Wednesday, May 26. The lowest temperature recorded in Fayetteville was 39°F and occurred twice on Wednesday, May 5 and Friday, May 7.

Fort Smith Regional Airport recorded an average daily mean temperature of 67.9°F and if you thought May 2021 was cool, you would be right. 67.9°F is 2.5°F below the average daily mean temperature for May. This places May 2021 as the 36th coldest May on record in Fort Smith out of 139 years.

The highest May temperature in Fort Smith was 88°F on Wednesday, May 26 and Thursday, May 27. The lowest temperature recorded at the airport was 45°F on Wednesday, May 5.


May is typically the wettest month of the year for the region. Fayetteville averages 5.89″ of rain during the month while Fort Smith typically sees a little less rainfall at 5.63″.

Last month, Fayetteville recorded 6.67 inches of rain at Drake Field, which places May 2021 in the record books as the 26th wettest on record. The wettest 24-hour period in Fayetteville was on Monday, May 3 when 1.84″ of rain fell at Drake Field.

Fort Smith Regional Airport recorded 6.15 inches of rain last month. Above our average monthly rainfall by 0.52″, last month was the 44th wettest May out of 139 years of record-keeping in Fort Smith. The wettest 24-hour period in Fort Smith was on Tuesday, May 25 after 1.50 inches of rain fell at the airport.

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