Leader Blues

Friday, January 08, 2010

TOP STORY >> Vicious freeze is set to move out

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

From the wettest year on record to some of the coldest days the area has seen since 1996, the weather has been a hot topic.

But single-digit freezing cold will give way to temperatures in the mid-50s by Thursday.

A low of 10 degrees Friday morning was a record-setter and todayís single-digit reading of about 8 degrees will be close to setting a record, but those mornings donít compare to the 5 degrees on Feb. 5, 1996.

Along with a forecast of warmer weather, meaning at or above normal temperatures for the start of the week, rain is also mentioned for Thursday through the rest of the week.

And rain, and lots of it, was the word for 2009. With more than 80 inches of rain in the local area, the year became the wettest since record-keeping started in 1882.

In fact, 18 reporting sites in the state reported 80 or more inches of rain for the year compared to just three in 2008. Two sites
last year reached 90 inches, and Leola (Grant County) had 100.05 inches.

The months with the most rain were May (wettest on record), July (third wettest), September (second wettest), October (wettest) and December (unofficially the wettest).

Rainfall was the most impressive in October, with 10 to more than 20 inches common across the state. It was the wettest month since January 1937.

In December, a powerful winter storm brought blizzard conditions from the Plains into the upper Midwest just before Christmas. In Arkansas it meant more rain. Some spots measured more than 11 inches of precipitation from the 22nd through the 25th.

But the yearís largest winter event, according to the National Weather Service, unfolded on Jan. 26 and lasted for three to four days.

A paralyzing ice storm across the northern counties left behind 1 to 2 inches of freezing rain and sleet...and locally more. At least 350,000 customers were left without power and 30,000 utility poles were downed or snapped.

As many as 18 fatalities were reported across the state.

Besides the wet weather, 2009 was an active tornado year. During the year, 45 tornadoes were counted across Arkansas. In a normal year, there are 26 tornadoes

Of last yearís tornadoes, 37 were rated EF0 or EF1, five tornadoes were EF2, and three tornadoes were given an EF3 rating.

The tornadoes caused three deaths and 42 injuries.

Looking back at 2009, January was the coolest January since 2003 even though it did hit 77 degrees on the third.

It went from a cool January to a warm February, as February became the warmest February in central Arkansas since 2005.

March was only the second March since 2003 that saw any snowfall.

May was the coolest May since 2002, the wettest on record.

June was the 10th warmest on record and twice it hit 99 degrees during the month, the warmest June temperatures since 2005.

But the heat wave reversed in July as it turned out to be the coolest since 1968 and the 12th coolest on record. A low temperature of 63 degrees on the 18th was the coolest July temperature in five years. July was also the wettest July since 1891.

August was the coolest August in five years and the first August since 2004 without a 100-degree reading.

October turned out to be the coolest since 1987, the 10th coolest on record and had fewer 80-degree days than any other October. It was the wettest October ever and the wettest month since January 1937.

November turned warm and dry. It was the warmest November since 2005 and the driest since 1999.

It was the coolest December since December 2000 and the wettest December since 1987.

Overall 2009 turned out to be the wettest year on record and the coolest since 2003.

State crop losses, because of the weather, have been estimated at more than $300 million.