Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Tornado Outbreak of December 2, 1982


It's hard to believe it has been 33 years since the outbreak of 16 tornadoes.  2 people died and 60 were injured during this 2 day outbreak.  I'm going to show my age here, but I was 8 years old and in the 3rd grade.  I barely remember this event.  I do remember having to take cover at school and hearing afterwards of a radio tower in the midtown area collapsing.  That's where my memory of this event stops.  

Here's some information I found about that F3 tornado which tore through Saline county and moved through the gut of the metro area. 

"At 2:55 PM, on December 2nd, a tornado touched down near Bryant, Arkansas, moved northeast through residential areas of western Little Rock to Crystal Hill, Arkansas.  Eight-six mobile homes were destroyed in Alexander.  One man was killed and 28 were injured.  Another man was killed when a piece of sheet metal crashed through the windshield of his parked car.  In western Little Rock, an additional 25 people were injured.  Also, over 100 homes were destroyed and about 750 buildings were damaged."

That month in 1982 was a December we DON'T want to remember.  It's also known for flooding those same two days across west central into north central Arkansas.  The entire business district in Clinton was flooded as more than 10 inches of rain fell.  

I also remember the big Christmas Eve tornado outbreak later that same month.  We were in the middle of church services and the sirens were going off.  More on that later this month.

1982 was a historic year weatherwise in Arkansas for flooding and tornadoes.  As a matter of fact, we ended up with 78 tornadoes that year which to this day is the 3rd most in state weather history.

Meteorologist John Robinson at the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock worked those outbreaks that December and he's still working there today.  I want to thank him for helping me find some of this information online a few years ago.

If you have any stories of this event, please share them in the comment section.

Below are various graphics I have found.

Here are all the tornado tracks I could find from the  We had 6, F3 tornadoes in Arkansas in 1 day (December 2nd).  You can clearly see the one which went through the Bryant and Little Rock area.
Here's the exact path of the F3 tornado from Bryant through Little Rock into North Little Rock.  It looks like it went right over the junction of I-30 and I-430.  Someone may help my memory in the comment section, but was Parkview High School hit?  Anyway, it went through midtown and crossed the river near Burns Park and moved close to the North Little Rock airport.

Here's a little wider shot showing more F3's north of Little Rock up towards Faulkner county on December 2nd.
More tornadoes were spawned on December 3rd.  Look at the one just east of Camden.  That's an F3

Here's a close up of the F3 which barely missed Camden, but caused significant damage just east and northeast of town on December 3rd, 1982.
This map may be a little difficult to read, but the areas outlined in western and northern Arkansas shows where a lot of rain fell.  As a matter of fact, almost of foot fell in some locations.  Here's more information I found about the flooding that day... "Torrential rains totaling ten inches or more fell in west and north Arkansas during a relatively short period from the afternoon of Thursday, December 2 to Friday morning December 3, 1982 (Figure 1). Extensive flooding occurred in these regions , both flash floods and river flooding. Particularly astounding was the rise on the Buffalo River at St. Joe, Arkansas. This small undammed river in a National Wilderness Area rose from 6.4 feet the morning of December 2 to 53.7 feet at noon December 3, a nearly 50 foot rise in one day (2)! Clinton, Arkansas, the county seat of Van Buren County, was especially hard hit by flooding. The entire business district was under 8-10 feet of water by the morning of December 3. Six people drowned in flood waters in the state."
Here's the surface map on December 2nd.  Notice the front to the west.  It was very slow moving due to the slow nature of the upper level trough advancing out of the western United States.  A ridge of high pressure over the east halted forward progress causing the system to creep at a slow pace.  This contributed to the excessive, flooding rainfall.
Here's the upper level chart.  You can see the deep trough to our west and the very significant amplitude to the jet stream.  


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice write-up about the event, and it was indeed a high impact episode. One correction to note: "Meteorologist John Robinson at the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock worked those outbreaks that December and he's still working there today." John retired in January of this year.

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