We are clearly in tornado season here in Arkansas. Tornadoes are in the forecast for both Wednesday and Thursday this week, and 26 years ago one of Arkansas’ deadliest tornado outbreaks occurred across the Natural State.
On March 1st, 1997 the air was very unstable, with a warm and humid wind surging northward from the Gulf of Mexico. Normal daytime high temperatures in the Little Rock area should be in the upper 50s, but readings were in the mid 70s at noon.
16 tornadoes were spawned across the state, killing 25 people. Since this event, no weather episode has resulted in as many fatalities locally.
This was a substantial outbreak, and the tornadoes were unusual for Arkansas. This is because a normal tornado path in the Natural State is a few miles long. Some of the tracks from the 1997 outbreak were 50 to 75 miles in length.
In all, at least 1200 structures were damaged or destroyed during the event, with property damage estimated at over $115 million.
One of the strongest tornadoes tracked from Hope in Hempstead County through Arkadelphia to Malvern in Hot Spring County. The track length was 67 miles! Considerable damage occurred in Arkadelphia. Six people were killed in Arkadelphia.
In all, the National Weather Service in Little Rock issued 57 severe weather warnings during the event, and 34 of them were Tornado Warnings.
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