LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The busiest year on record for tornadoes in Arkansas was 1999, according to the National Weather Service. On Jan. 21st and 22nd of that year, the largest tornado outbreak in state history occurred with 107 tornadoes spawned.
According to the National Weather Service’s website, there were 56 tornadoes counted and they tended to spin up along the Interstate 30 and U.S. Hwy 67/167 corridors (southwest through central in northeast sections of the state).
In the Little Rock County Warning Area, there were 30 tornado tracks across 15 counties. The Little Rock office issued 48 tornado warnings, 80 severe thunderstorm warnings, and 22 flash flood warnings during the event. The tornadoes were responsible for 8 fatalities and 140 to 150 injuries.
Most of the tornadoes were produced between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. CST on the 21st and were accompanied by baseball to grapefruit size hail at times.
The previous record for one outbreak was 34 tornadoes on June 5, 1916. Some additional records included…
- Most tornadoes in a state on any day in January (the previous record was 13 tornadoes on January 10, 1975 in Alabama and on January 24, 1997 in Tennessee).
- Most tornadoes on one day in January (the previous record was 39 tornadoes on January 10, 1975 in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas).
- Most tornadoes in any state in the month of January (the previous record was 25 tornadoes in Texas in 1998).
One of the more prominent tornadoes (rated F3) affected the Beebe (White County) area. Two people were killed in town.
The tornado was spawned 1 mile southwest of town and hit at 730 pm CST. The tornado dissipated 1 mile northeast of McRae (White County) and was on the ground for 8 miles.
The game was stopped at halftime. Two to three hundred people were in attendance and had left by the time the tornado arrived a half hour later. The gym was destroyed.
Half of the tornadoes in the Little Rock County Warning Area were rated F2 or greater, and they caused extensive damage.
One of these tracked from around Shannon Hills (Saline County) through Little Rock (Pulaski County) and hit a historic district in the city.
Several homes built at the turn of the 20th century were heavily damaged. Even the Governor’s mansion was not spared, with a tree falling on a fence around the property. A grocery store was ripped apart as well. Three people were killed in the area.
Two tornadoes (rated F2 and F3) had nearly parallel tracks and were only a couple of miles (and two hours) apart across northern White and southern Independence Counties. They affected the communities of Holly Springs and Sunnydale (both in northern White County), and also areas just south and southeast of Pleasant Plains and Rosie (both in southern Independence County). One person was killed near Pleasant Plains (Independence County).
From Floyd to Center Hill (both in White County), a tornado (F2) wiped out several mobile homes and blew a house off of a foundation into a nearby field. There were two fatalities.
At Joy (White County), the volunteer fire station was damaged by a tornado (rated F2). Homes and businesses suffered mostly roof damage at Newark (Independence County) when a tornado (rated F2) roared through town. There were a lot of trees downed or snapped as well.
White and Independence Counties were especially hard hit during this event. The counties were affected by ten tornadoes and six tornadoes respectively.