What made this outbreak notable was the severity and the duration. For about 10 days, the temperature never rose above freezing allowing the Arkansas River to freeze over. (See video below.)
We also had a few bouts with winter weather. Snow and ice glazed the state providing Arkansans with a white Christmas.
I was only 9 years old and remember the icy weather quite well. To begin the outbreak, we had 2 or three inches of snow. A couple days later, a round of moderate to heavy freezing rain coated everything with a solid sheet of ice. I could stand on the snow/ice in my front yard and never break or crack the ice. (I also weighed much less than I do now).
Just a month prior to this historic arctic outbreak. Little Rock experienced a round of severe storms. Some of you may remember while the Arkansas vs. SMU game was being played at War Memorial Stadium, tornado warnings were issued for Pulaski county. My dads business was hit by a tornado/high winds and destroyed. I was home watching the game on TV and remember my dad finding a phone somehow and calling. He said, "we're ruined". Thankfully he had insurance and it turned out to be the best Christmas our family ever had. He didn't have to work while the business was rebuilt and we spent a lot of time together during the Holiday.
|Thanks to the National Weather Service in North Little Rock for this data.|
|December 19th, 1983 surface map|
|December 24th, 1983 surface map|
The next map on December 24th, 1983 indicates a surface high pressure of 1060 mb in Montana. As you can see with the isobars (lines of equal barometric pressure), the flow of air was out of the due north at the surface. The strong pressure gradient indicated on the map contributed to very breezy conditions. This bitter air mass kept temperatures in the single digits and teens Christmas Day. As a matter of fact, when the kids woke up to see what Santa Clause brought them, the temperature in Little Rock was 0 degrees. I guess the "weather outside was frightful."
Will we ever see anything like this again in our lifetime? Who knows. If you remember this event, please leave a few remarks in the comment section. If you have any pictures you would like to share of this event, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just remember those chilling 10 days in December of 1983 as we go through this cold spell over the next couple of days! Stay warm!