LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On March 1, 1997, one of the largest tornado outbreaks to occur in Arkansas during the month of March occurred.
Very warm, humid air was moving into Arkansas from the south, coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, a strong cold front was approaching from the northwest. The clash of two vastly different air masses and change of wind direction resulted in the formation of many tornadoes and a dangerous weather event unfolding across the state.
16 tornadoes formed from southeast to northeast Arkansas, killing 25 people and injuring over 400 people.
Arkadelphia, Shannon Hills, College Station and Denmark were among the hardest hit locations.
Most fatalities occured along I-30 from Arkadelphia to Little Rock where a couple of strong, long-track tornadoes formed.
While majority of the tornadoes from this outbreak were weak, some damage tracks spanned 50-75 miles long.
The National Weather Service in Little Rock issued 57 severe weather warnings on that day; 37 of which were tornado warnings.
Overall, more than 1200 structures were damaged or destroyed, and the total damages amounted to over $115 million.
Since this event, no weather event has resulted in as many fatalities locally.
The deadliest tornado outbreak in Arkansas history dates back to March 21, 1952 when 111 people died.