Sunday, January 18, 2015

30 Years Ago... The Mother Of All Cold Fronts

While we bask in temperatures near 70 degrees in the middle of January, let's recall what happened 30 years ago Monday.  Do you remember the temperature change?  I do.  On January 19th and 20th of 1985, Little Rock experienced the greatest 24 hour temperature change in recorded weather history.  Much like now, we were enjoying mild weather, then the bottom fell out.    I remember my aunt was in town visiting from Connecticut.  She flew in and was pleasantly surprised by the 60 degree weather in January, but as the cold settled in the next day, she said it felt more like home.  The arctic front came in with a very dry and powdery snow which created almost white out conditions as northerly winds howled.  Snow amounts were not impressive with Little Rock coming in with 1'', North Little Rock 1.5'', and the Little Rock Air Force Base with 1.6''.

So how cold was it?  The meteogram below shows you those temperatures in 2 hour increments.  The high on the 19th was 60 degrees, but the high on the 20th was only 15 degrees! UNREAL!  5 days later, the temperature made it to 61 degrees.  That's typical of Arkansas weather, eh?

Thanks to Brian Smith at the National Weather Service Office in NLR for the data.

That's just an incredible change!  The wind chill value reached -22 in Little Rock.  However, this was calculated by a formula that is no longer in use.  The wind chill factor by today's formula would not have been quite as cold, but it would have been well below zero.  Little Rock went from 60 degrees down to -2 degrees in less than 24 hours... AMAZING!  After the high of 60 on the 19th, the high on the 20th was only 15 degrees.  North Little Rock had a low of -6 and the Little Rock Air Force Base had a low of 0.  It was another example of, "NEVER SAY NEVER TO ARKANSAS WEATHER"
This is the actual surface map on Saturday, January 19, 1985.  The arctic boundary was located over southern Missouri and poised to crash the 60 degree party everyone was having in Arkansas.


jimmylee42 said...

Todd-I remember that one like it was yesterday. It was a 2 day frigid blast and came 2 weeks ahead of a near blizzard at the end of the month.

Steve Heye (hi) said...

Todd, I remember that weekend because I was leading a Sierra Club hike on the Ouachita trail 40 miles west of Little Rock. Saturday was great 60 degrees and I had a dozen folks making the hike down to Crystal Prong below Flatside Pinnacle. We knew cold weather was coming, so all but 3 of us went back to town. The three of us who stayed really got a surprise when the temp just kept dropping.
One of the other hikers had a hi/lo recording thermometer with her. From our high of 60 we went to -13!!. The wind was not much help either! The next morning we boiled some water and ate behind a tarp I strung up to block the wind. We hightailed it out of there as fast as we could, only to find a dead battery on the truck! Lucky for us it was a manual and we roll started it. Oh yeah, I remember that Sunday Morning!
steve Heye , little rock

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