Climate Data
Yearly Reports
Interested in what kind of weather occurred in a recent year? Check out the most memorable events below.
 
Arkansas Yearly Climate Summary (2008)/Pg1
 
Introduction
 
If there was ever a year of extremes in Arkansas, 2008 was it. There were four outbreaks of 10 or more tornadoes which resulted in 21 fatalities. It was the deadliest year since 1997. There was a high wind event in January that left over 40,000 customers without power. There were two large snowstorms in early March across northern and western Arkansas. This was followed by extensive flooding later in the month and also in April. Two tropical systems (Gustav and Ike) arrived in September. Taking everything into account, there were 200 days with severe weather, flooding, significant wintry precipitation or excessive heat. It is rare to have such extremes occur in a calendar year. It is a once in a lifetime experience. As you read various weather accounts, you may not be familiar with where events occurred in the Little Rock County Warning Area. To help you along, refer to a map by clicking here. Onward we go...

 

Links of Interest
Storms of 2008 (in PDF)
Note: This is a file with lists of significant events (tornadoes, damaging winds, hail, etc) during the year in Arkansas.
Year 2008 (Little Rock)
Year 2008 (North Little Rock)
Year 2008 (Harrison)

 

Why So Active?
 
A La Nina (cooler than normal water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean) pattern was in place as 2008 began. The southern branch of the jetstream (the Subtropical Jet), which normally flows south of Arkansas during the Winter/early Spring months, was drawn northward. This provided more warmth and moisture than usual, with incoming storm systems energized and producing more extreme weather events than normal. The severe weather season (usually from March through May) also got an early start, with tornadoes in January. This was also the case in 1999 (a La Nina year), with 56 tornadoes on the 21st/22nd (a record outbreak in Arkansas).

 

Heavy Snow/Flooding Rain
 
Perhaps the biggest story of the year was excess water and its impacts on the state. Looking at temperature and precipitation statistics, it was a slightly cooler than normal year...but rainfall was big in the north and west. At Fayetteville (Washington County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Harrison (Boone County), it was a Top 5 wettest year on record.

 

Temperatures and Precipitation in 2008 
Site High Temp Low Temp Avg +/- Precip +/-
Fayetteville (NW AR) 68.0° 45.3° 56.7° -0.8° 57.92 (3) +11.90
Harrison (NC AR) 67.3° 46.1° 56.7° -1.1° 61.70 (4) +16.50
Jonesboro (NE AR) 69.6° 48.9° 59.2° -0.7° 46.08 -0.10
Fort Smith (WC AR) 72.1° 50.3° 61.2° 0.0° 61.02 (4) +17.15
Little Rock (C AR) 72.4° 51.7° 62.1° 0.0° 58.16 +7.23
North Little Rock (C AR) 71.2° 52.2° 61.7° -1.1° 51.93 +2.74
West Memphis (EC AR) 70.5° 50.2° 60.3° -0.5° 48.59 -4.21
Texarkana (SW AR) 73.7° 52.9° 63.3° -1.3° 55.05 +7.67
El Dorado (SC AR) 74.9° 51.4° 63.2° -0.5° 45.57 -8.54
Monticello (SE AR) 73.5° 52.0° 62.8° +0.5° 52.33 -3.00
Note: Numbers in parentheses after precipitation amounts indicate rankings. For example, (4) is the 4th wettest year on record.

 

Departure from normal rainfall in 2008. Some spots in the north and west had surpluses of more than 20 inches, and records were set.
In the picture: Departure from normal rainfall in 2008. It was the wettest or second wettest year on record at the locations plotted.

 

Link of Interest
Rainfall Records in 2008

 

Water began to saturate the soil over these areas in early March. Two big snowstorms hit on the 3rd/4th and the 6th/7th. The former episode resulted in as much as 6 to 12 inches of snow, with 8 to 12 inches and a maximum of a foot and a half during the latter round. The pattern at 12 am CST on 03/07/2008.
In the picture: The pattern at 12 am CST on 03/07/2008...with storm systems ("L") forming along a stalled front in the Gulf of Mexico, and widespread precipitation north of the front. A strong jet (110 to 120 knots at 30,000 feet) was noted, with a lot of lifting north of the jet (with increased ventilation overhead).

 

A motel was under water along the upper reaches of the White River at Calico Rock (Izard County) on 03/20/2008. This set the stage for a heavy rain event on March 17th through the 19th, and massive flooding to follow.
In the picture: A motel was under water along the upper reaches of the White River at Calico Rock (Izard County) on 03/20/2008. Click to enlarge.

 

First, it was flash flooding...with water flowing into homes. People were stranded and had to be rescued. Vehicles were swept off of roads, with fatalities reported near Timbo (Stone County) and around West Fork (Washington County). Highways were eventually closed. From there, the event evolved into river flooding.

 

Flood stages were well exceeded along the Black, Buffalo, White and Spring Rivers. Locations along these tributaries experienced Top 5 highest crests on record. Where major flooding occurred following the heavy rain event of March 17-19, 2008.
In the picture: Where major flooding occurred following the heavy rain event of March 17-19, 2008.

 

Arguably, the last event of this magnitude occurred in December, 1982. The Black River reached its highest level in at least 60 years. At Georgetown (White County), water covered the only road into town (Highway 36) as of March 22nd...and the road remained impassible into April.

 

Crests Along the Buffalo, Spring, Black and White Rivers
Location River Crest (ft) Flood Stage (ft) Date/Time Rank
St. Joe (Searcy Co) Buffalo 49.41 27 03/19 (8 am CDT) 3
Hardy (Sharp Co) Spring 22.29 10 03/19 (730 am CDT) 1
Calico Rock (Izard Co) White 39.64 19 03/20 (1215 am CDT) NA
Batesville (Independence Co) White 27.00 15 03/20 (9 am CDT) 8T
Corning (Clay Co) Black 15.92 15 03/22 (6 am CDT) 2
Pocahontas (Randolph Co) Black 26.52 17 03/22 (6 pm CDT) 2
Black Rock (Lawrence Co) Black 29.71 14 03/20 (3 am CDT) 4
Newport (Jackson Co) White 33.98 26 03/21 (12 pm CDT) 6
Augusta (Woodruff Co) White 38.41 26 03/22 (9 pm CDT) 4
Georgetown (White Co) White 30.18 21 03/24 (6 am CDT) 7
Des Arc (Prairie Co) White 33.74 24 03/25 (11 pm CDT) 4
Clarendon (Monroe Co) White 33.04 26 03/29 (3 pm CDT) 5
Note: "NA" is not in the Top 10 crests. "T" is tied.

 

Link of Interest
Historic Flood Crests

 

All flood gates were open at Norfork Dam (Baxter County) on 04/10/2008. Excessive rain hit again on April 9th/10th, and impacted the same areas. This pushed lake levels higher than flood pools (capacity) in northern Arkansas, and releases were necessary.
In the picture: All flood gates were open at Norfork Dam (Baxter County) on 04/10/2008. The picture is courtesy of Mel Coleman. Click to enlarge.

 

On a normal day, 6800 cubic feet per second is released at Norfork Dam (Baxter County). On April 10th, it was up to 82000 cubic feet per second. This created flooding along the Norfork River between the dam and the upper reaches of the White River.

 

Overflowing White River Basin Lakes (04/11/2008)
Location 7 AM Level (ft) Flood Pool
Beaver Lake (NW AR) 1131.6 1130
Table Rock Lake (SW MO) 931.8 931
Norfork Lake (NC AR) 581.2 580
Note: "NW" is northwest, "SW" is southwest, and "NC" is north central. 

 

High water lasted into the late Spring/early Summer months before receding...especially along the lower reaches of the White River. Outside of property losses (homes and businesses), those with agricultural interests suffered as thousands of acres of wheat were destroyed. Additional planting was greatly delayed or did not occur at all in some cases.

 

Links of Interest
March 6-7, 2008 (heavy snow)
March 17-19, 2008 (flooding rain)

 

More Information
 
There is more concerning 2008, including the second most number of tornadoes in a year. To check out the rest of the story, click here.

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