February 5 is the five-year anniversary of a deadly Arkansas tornado outbreak.
The National Weather Service in Little Rock provides the following look back at the severe weather of February 5, 2008:
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.
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.
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).
By the late afternoon of the 5th, tornadic supercells (storms with rotating updrafts) were followed by a squall line along the front...with strong to damaging winds.
At Hot Springs (Garland County), there was a 53 mph gust at 605 pm CST...and a 67 mph gust at Little Rock Adams Field (Pulaski County) at 713 pm CST. Historic Gusts in Little Rock.
After the front and squall line exited eastern sections of the state (by 10 pm CST), much colder air followed. Moisture wrapped around the storm system, with light snow toward the Missouri border early on the 6th.
The National Weather Service at Little Rock (Pulaski County) surveyed tornado damage caused on the 5th.
One long track tornado was confirmed, with a track length of 122 miles. An aerial survey was performed (with the Civil Air Patrol) on the 9th to determine if the path was continuous...and it was!
The starting point of the tornado was 5.6 miles east-southeast of Centerville (Yell County). It finally dissipated 3.2 miles northeast of Highland (Sharp County).
The rating for the tornado was initially at least an EF3. A member of a Quick Response Team (QRT) visited Arkansas on the 8th to look at some of the worst damage along the track. In the end, the rating was upgraded to EF4.
Damage in Baxter and Marion Counties (caused by a separate storm) was evaluated...and was caused by a tornado rated EF2.
The starting point of the tornado was 4 miles west-southwest of Rea Valley (Marion County). It dissipated 3 miles west-southwest of Mountain Home (Baxter County)...a path length of 14 miles.
There were three other small tornadoes confirmed on the 5th in the Little Rock County Warning Area...both rated EF0.
Outside of the Little Rock County Warning Area, there were four tornadoes in eastern Arkansas (Memphis County Warning Area), two in the southeast (Jackson County Warning Area) and one in the south (Shreveport County Warning Area). These tornadoes were rated EF0 or EF1.
Map photo courtesy: National Weather Service