The biggest stories in Arkansas usually revolve around weather, politics, and the Razorbacks. This year, weather took center stage and you will see that with the #1 weather event of the year. It was an event we all wish never happened.
This year, Arkansas had 20 tornadoes and that's below the yearly average of 33. Those tornadoes killed 17 and injured 200.
High thunderstorm winds killed 4 and injured 4
Here's some good news. There were NO flooding fatalities, but 4 were injured.
Lightning killed 2 and injured 10.
This year will likely end up in the top 5 coldest years in Arkansas weather history. Those numbers will not be available until later in January. Thanks to the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock for these statistics.
Here's the list...
7. NOVEMBER COLD AND SNOW
We can get arctic air in November, but the round which pushed into the state was almost record breaking and it came with an early snow. North Little Rock received about half an inch. Flurries were in the forecast, but that arctic air squeezed out whatever moisture was in the air as a weak disturbance worked through the state. It dropped to 24 degrees in Little Rock on the 14th. That's a huge departure from the November "averages." The monthly temperature was 4.7 degrees BELOW average. That's chilly for November! Here's a great shot of snow in November in Morrilton from Brian Emfinger.
6. FEBRUARY 7TH SNOW
When arctic air is in place, anything can happen. Light snow was in the forecast that Friday evening, but mother nature overachieved with a disturbance working through the region. Snow came down with accumulations from 2-3 inches common all throughout the metro causing a traffic nightmare. Some were stuck for hours and cars littered the sides of roads, especially in west Little Rock. The next day was perfect for sledding and of course I went. Here's some video of one of my runs down a steep west Little Rock hill.
5. MARCH 2ND SLEET STORM
I called the winter of 2013-2014 the winter of sleet. We had some snow, but most of the wintry precipitation was sleet and it piled up this early March day. The changeover occurred early in the evening from rain to moderate and heavy sleet. There was even a little lightning. Across northern Arkansas, up to 6 inches of sleet piled up which is a little unusual. There were even drifts of sleet.
Here's a picture of huge sleet drifts in Searcy county from Jeff Stephenson.
4. COOL SUMMER
While northern Arkansas did reach 100 degrees a couple times, Little Rock never hit 100 degrees this past summer and that was the first time since 2009. It came with rain and thunderstorms too. It was the 3rd coldest July in Little Rock weather history by average monthly temperature. This picture was taken in JULY in northern Arkansas.
3. ASHDOWN TORNADO AND ACTIVE SECONDARY SEVERE WEATHER SEASON
The first 2 weeks of October was very active with plenty of severe weather. As a matter of fact, we had more tornadoes in October than all of last spring. Our secondary tornado season can be active at times. On the morning of October 13th, an EF2 tornado hit southwest Arkansas in Little River county. 1 person was killed and 4 were injured. The tornado tracked from 1.7 miles southeast of Comet to 0.7 miles east of Arden.
2. COLD WINTER OF EARLY 2014
It was cold and it would not stop. We also had plenty of snow and ice which caused schools to cancel classes and some had to go well into June to make up the missed days. It wasn't just cold, it was extremely cold. Little Rock dropped into the single digits for the first time in almost 20 years. The Little Maumelle River froze over and you could throw rocks across the War Memorial pond.
1. MAYFLOWER/VILONIA TORNADO
It only takes one storm. The entire year was quiet in terms of severe weather, but this day in late April changed everything. The EF4 tornado touched down at 7:06PM and stayed on the ground for 41.1 miles. We lost 16 of our fellow Arkansans and 193 were injured. It was an overwhelming loss for our state. Just a few days later, President Obama visited and tried to comfort victims. The tornado tracked very close to the 2011 tornado which devastated Vilonia almost exactly 3 years prior.
I remember sitting in the weather center looking at the radar and noticing rotation strengthening. Ned and Barry were in the newsroom. I called up there and told them to get back to the weather center ASAP. Just a few seconds after they got back, the first tornado warning was issued. The tornado strengthened so quickly that within minutes, a giant debris ball was seen on radar. People's lives were seen being sucked up into the sky and there was nothing we could do but get an urgent warning out to everyone in the path. It was a gut wrenching moment seeing it all unfold. Just a little while later, we heard from Brian Emfinger (Channel 7 storm chaser). He streamed live video back to the station and we quickly realized the scope of the disaster. We also got his drone video in quickly into the station and this really conveyed how much damage the massive wedge tornado caused. It was a very dark time for our state, but I was extremely proud of Channel 7 and all of you. The tornado hit shortly after 7PM and before our 10 o'clock news, our station set up the Spirit of Arkansas Relief Drive. You all amazingly responded and in just a few short days, hundreds of thousands of dollars were donated. Many donated time too. I know of one person in particular who dropped everything and helped clean up for a week. As we bring in 2015, let's pause and think of those who won't and remember them.