- Twenty years ago on March 1, 1997, one of the state’s worst tornado outbreaks killed 26 people (25 in Arkansas and one in Tennessee) and injured hundreds of others. The deadliest tornadoes, two of which were rated F4, swept across Interstate 30 from southwest Arkansas to central and northeast Arkansas. Arkadelphia in Clark County, Shannon Hills in Saline County and portions of southern Little Rock sustained severe damage, with hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed. Property damage was estimated between $115 million and $120 million.
The first deadly tornado of the day touched down near Hope at 1:55 p.m. and produced damage over 67 miles, including Arkadelphia. In the aftermath of the storm, about 20,000 electric co-op members were without power. Hardest hit were South Central Arkansas Electric Co-op based in Arkadelphia; First Electric Cooperative’s Benton District, and Farmers Electric Co-op in Newport.
- The most active year for tornadoes in Arkansas was 1999, the NWS reported, with 107 tornadoes spawned. It was a La Niña year, which means the water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean was cooler than normal. The second most active year for twisters was 2008, also a La Niña year, with 81 tornadoes.
- For many years, people were told to open windows if a tornado was near, but that is no longer advised.
That was because it was believed that rapidly falling pressure would cause homes and businesses to expand and explode, the NWS said. But research has shown that powerful rotating winds, not pressure drops, cause the most damage. To open your window’s home would allow the wind and flying debris to flow more freely through a home and cause damage and injuries.
- The longest “cold spell” in 1960 in Little Rock was from Feb. 11 to March 28, marking 47 consecutive days with below-average temperatures, according to Weatherspark.com.
- The largest hailstone recorded in Arkansas was 5 inches in diameter, according to the NWS. It fell near Newark in Independence County during the tornado outbreak of Jan. 21-22, 1999.
- Even though we’ve already had spring-like weather and daffodils in bloom, the official first day of spring (vernal equinox) doesn’t come until March 20.