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Snow? in May? It Could Happen in North Arkansas Friday

Cooler air from Canada expected to bring flurries, maybe more.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - While the month of May brings the beginning of summer, the Arkansas forecast is back-tracking to winter.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Little Rock says cold fronts are barreling into the state from the north today, bringing much cooler air from Canada.

The NWS says that by dawn on Friday, temperatures in the northwest counties will drop into the 30s. While moisture will be on the decline, there may be enough to squeeze out some light snow or flurries.

If this happens, it would be the latest snow on record in the state. According to official observations, the current record is a trace of snow at Fayetteville (Washington County), Gravette (Benton County) and Harrison (Boone County) on April 30, 1903.

Cold air was no stranger in April. While there was significant heating at times ahead of incoming fronts (temperatures in the 70s/80s), there was substantial cooling to follow and an occasional freeze.

The latest freeze occurred on the 25th. The thermometer bottomed out at 28 degrees at Lead Hill (Boone County), with 29 degrees at Evening Shade (Sharp County) and Waldron (Scott County). This was the latest freeze since 1960 at Booneville (Logan County), and 1963 at Batesville Lock and Dam (Independence County) and Harrison (Boone County).

Additional notes about late snow in Arkansas via email from NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist John Robinson and Senior Forecaster Brian Smith.

For Arkansas:
Latest accumulating snow:  0.2 inch at Corning on April 24, 1910
Latest snow: Trace at Fayetteville, Gravette, and Harrison on April 30, 1903

For Little Rock:
Latest accumulating snow:  0.8 inch on March 30, 1987
Latest snow: Trace on April 19, 1983

We've gotten e-mails and seen comments online about people saying they had seen accumulating snow at various places in Arkansas in May. While it's important to remember that weather records are taken from official observing stations only, the dates and years that people have said they saw snow in Arkansas in May would have been virtually impossible.

Also, it is important to note that, at various times over the years, there was a requirement that hail be reported as "snow" (technically, frozen precipitation) so there will be records from some years that show "snow" in the summer months.

This is what we had heard: Snow fell sometime early in May, 1975, in Little Rock and Stone County.

Records for May, 1975, do not show snow recorded at any station in Arkansas. Storm Data also has no mention of any snow. During the first week of May, 1975, both Mountain View and Little Rock recorded highs in the 70s or 80s every day and lows never got below the 40s at either station. There were some hail storms in the state during that time. We're thinking there may have been a lot of graupel (small hail) in places, and it may have piled up on the ground. Yesterday, I went to the Arkansas History Commission and went through the microfilms of the Stone County newspaper and the two Little Rock newspapers for the first 10 days of May, 1975. There was no mention of any snow, but some hail was mentioned.

No sooner did I get back to the office than I got an e-mail saying there was measurable snow in North Little Rock in May, 1976, and the woman said she remembered it because it broke the limbs on a plum tree, which were loaded with blossoms. Once again, records showed no station in Arkansas receiving snow in that month, and there was no mention of snow in Storm Data. Little Rock's high temperatures ranged from the mid 60s to lower 80s and, once again, lows never got below the mid 40s. I wrote the woman back saying that nothing could be found in the records for May, 1976, and she replied that maybe it was April! (Also, it would strike me as really odd that fruit trees in central Arkansas were just blossoming in early May.)

So, I think all we've found so far is some faulty memories.

I've found that things always seem to grow in scope the further away in time that you get from the event. I don't know how many times I've heard that the Arkadelphia tornado was F5; it was actually F4. The Beebe tornado was supposedly F4; it was actually F3 (as rated separately by us and wind engineers). A couple of years after the Arkadelphia tornado, a newspaper in northwest Arkansas wrote an editorial (reprinted by several other newspapers) about tornado sirens and stated that no warning was in effect for Arkadelphia. This was 100% false.  In fact, the warning was in effect for so long there was even some discussion as to how much lead time is too much.

By the way, all the temperatures and precipitation records for Arkansas are available for anyone to see on the National Climatic Data Center's website (click here and look for "Climatological Data Publication"). Storm Data is available at the same site. All this data is now available for free viewing. Up until a year or so ago, it was not free to the public.
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