LITTLE ROCK, AR – Tornadoes claimed the lives of 14 Arkansans on the 5th. Two parent storms spawned two tornadoes in a nine county area in northern and central sections of the state. The tornadoes caused extensive damage. This was the deadliest severe weather event in the state since March 1, 1997 when 25 people were killed.
It was also an historic event. One of the tornadoes tracked 122 miles, which is the longest track on record in Arkansas since 1950.
There were ten additional tornadoes counted elsewhere in the state (a total of twelve tornadoes). These tornadoes were generally weak.
Early on the 5th, a strong storm system approached from the Plains. Ahead of the system, breezy southerly winds provided well above normal temperatures (record high readings in some areas) and abundant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Warmth and moisture destabilized the atmosphere and fueled developing thunderstorms.
Storms began popping up from northeast Oklahoma into southwest Missouri and extreme northwest Arkansas during the morning of the 5th. Winds aloft picked up markedly…which created a lot of lift. Unstable air was drawn quickly upward…leading to the precipitation.
By afternoon, the system in the Plains dragged a cold front into the state. Thunderstorms became more numerous, with severe weather likely (especially between 2 pm and 10 pm CST). Winds turned with height, and caused some storms to rotate. Two killer tornadoes were spawned, with one of them on the ground for 122 miles!
This long track tornado caused extensive damage from Atkins (Pope County) to Clinton (Van Buren County), Mountain View (Stone County) and Highland (Sharp County).
Five people were killed near Atkins (Pope County), and there were three deaths in Van Buren County.
The other tornado was spawned farther north from near Rea Valley (Marion County) to Gassville (Baxter County). One death was reported in the Gassvile (Baxter County) area. In all, 14 fatalities were reported.
Story information from National Weather Service in Little Rock.