Christmas Snow Chances Very Low for Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - With Christmas now days away, the thoughts of many Arkansans turn to hopes for snow.

Our meteorologists say the chances are slim but we could at least see snow flurries early next week. A strong cold front will move into the state over the weekend with considerably colder air sweeping in behind it. Precipitation will remain possible as the front moves through. The front is expected to stall to the south of Arkansas early next week, bringing the chance for some winter weather.

But for the next couple of days the big weather maker will be rain, which moved into the state Tuesday morning with a dynamic storm system that will impact Central and South Arkansas. Our meteorologists recommend keeping the umbrellas handy.

Rainfall totals are expected to be 1-3 inches with locally heavier amounts. Some storms are also expected to develop later in the evening and overnight across Central and South Arkansas. A few storms in South Arkansas may be strong to severe with damaging winds the main concern. The Storm Prediction Center has a Marginal Risk for severe storms in South Arkansas. In areas where heavy rain falls, flash flooding will also be a possibility so take the proper precautions [turn around, don't drown!]. Rain will linger into Wednesday morning before clearing out by the afternoon. 

Getting back to talking about snow on Christmas in Arkansas...the National Weather Service office in Little Rock says it's a very rare conversation, but it happened in 2012. Boy, did it ever!

More than ten inches of snow accumulated from west central into central and northeast sections of the state. In Little Rock (Pulaski County), nine inches of snow piled up officially on December 25th. This was the first Christmas snow that stuck (snow depth more than a trace) in more than 80 years! Another 1.3 inches fell early on the 26th (a total of 10.3 inches).

After several days of rain, the holidays look cold this year (2017). Models are showing a cold front surging through the area from the Plains by the 22nd. Below to well below average temperatures are expected behind the front, with mild conditions and moisture shoved to the south/east. There may be enough leftover moisture locally for sprinkles/flurries on the 24th, followed by chilly and mostly dry weather on the 25th.

Snow on Christmas...A Rare Occurrence
Since snowfall records began in Little Rock (Pulaski County), there have been relatively few times when snow was seen on Christmas Day.

Looking at the entire period of record from 1875 to 2015, snow fell a dozen times (measurable four times and flurries or trace amounts the other eight times). In three other years (in 1876, 1963 and 2004), no snow fell, but there was measurable snow already on the ground.

Going by the averages, there is snow in the air or covering the ground on Christmas about once every nine to ten years. It is much more rare to have snow start on Christmas and accumulate (more than a trace on the ground) before the end of the day. It happened in 2012 (9.0 inches). Before that, it was 1926!

Link of Interest
More on the White Christmas Odds Across the U.S.

Some Details About Past White Christmases in Arkansas
In 1887...1914...1918...1935...1939...1975 and 2009 snow fell with no accumulation.

In 1876...two inches of snow was on the ground from snowfall on Christmas Eve.

In 1879...rain began around 7 AM Christmas Eve...changing to a mix of sleet and snow during the afternoon. By night...the ground was covered with snow...which continued into Christmas morning.

In 1897...one inch of snow fell on Christmas Day between 450 am and 1245 pm. By 700 pm that night...only a trace of snow remained on the ground.

In 1913...snow started at midnight and continued until 1130 am Christmas Day. A total of one and one half (1.5) inches of snow fell...but during the afternoon the temperature rose to 40 degrees and most of it melted. By that evening only a trace of snow remained.

On Christmas Day in 1926...sleet began falling around 600 am and then changed to snow. The snow continued until 130 pm. Overall...there was 1.7 inches of sleet and 2.5 inches of snow. The snow stayed on the ground through the 28th. Ironically...there was a serious tornado outbreak in Arkansas on Thanksgiving that year.

On Christmas Eve in 1962...it snowed an inch and a half (1.5) during the day but melted quickly during the night...leaving only patches of snow on the ground Christmas morning...which melted that day.

In 1963...four inches of snow was on the ground Christmas Day...left over from a 9.8 inch snowfall on December 22.

In 1975...it snowed on Christmas afternoon. In many of the hills around the city up to two inches of snow accumulated. For those living in the lower elevations of the city...rain and snow was mixed and little of the snow remained on the ground. By the next day...most of the snow had melted. No snow accumulated at Little Rock.

In 1983...a total of 2 inches of snow fell earlier in the week and there was some ice on top of that. Due to melting and refreezing...there was about an inch of ice and snow left on the ground by Christmas Day...but none remained on the ground at Little Rock.

In 1990...2.4 inches of snow and sleet fell on December 22-23 and most of it remained on the ground through Christmas Day in some of the higher elevations of the metro area.

In 2000...there was some snow on the ground in northern and western Arkansas on Christmas Day. At Little Rock...a trace of sleet and freezing rain had accumulated on the ground. That day...one of the largest ice storms in recorded history overspread the state...shutting the state down through the remainder of the year.

In 2004...snow fell in much of northern and central Arkansas on December 22. In Little Rock, roughly 3 inches of snow was measured...with 1 inch still on the ground on Christmas Day.    

In 2009...light snow began a little before midnight on Christmas Eve. It ended around 300 am Christmas morning...with patches of snow on the ground through early morning.

In 2012...rain and freezing rain developed during the late morning and continued in the afternoon. There was also thunder at times. Precipitation changed to sleet and then snow during the evening, and there were still a few rumbles of thunder. By midnight, nine inches of snow was measured.


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