Arkansas has seen a 20.1 percent decrease in tornadoes since 2010, according to data provided by analysts for an online insurance comparison platform.
Arkansas had 83 fewer tornadoes from 2010-2019 (330) than from 2000-2009 (413), according to the analysts for quotewizard.com. They also “found that tornado patterns are shifting, moving out of what is called ‘Tornado Alley’ and into the South,” public relations director Nathan Barber said.
“We never look a gift horse in the mouth,” White County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Tamara Jenkins said when asked about the data. “You never look a gift horse in the mouth and the less we have, the better off we are. I know that disaster is our line of work but if we don’t have disasters, we feel that we are very blessed.”
The last tornado to affect White County was an EF-1 just south of Romance last November that caused damage to eight properties and injured four residents. According to Jenkins, the last time White County had a tornado fatality was in April 2014 in El Paso.
“It was also the same tornado that hit Mayflower and it came up through El Paso, Floyd, Romance, Center Hill and went up a little further north,” Jenkins said.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Justin Condry from the North Little Rock office agreed that there has been an overall reduction in tornadoes in the state, with it even being seen this year.
“As of May 6, 2020, there was 23 tornados reported across Arkansas,” Condry said a couple of weeks ago. “So far this year, there has only been 11.
“Part of that is due to the lack of instability across the state. A lot of time in our forecasting incidents, we notice that certain aspects of the atmosphere that lead us to seeing that severe weather is likely tend to be lacking.”
He said that before the state “started to get really wet with a lot of storms coming in, from about February until then we had been pretty dry across the state and that dry part means that storms are not moving across the state like they usually do.”
Condry said it is “weird” for them at the National Weather Service because usually in “a La Nina year [winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the south and cooler than normal in the north] you would expect to have more severe weather across our area, but for whatever reason, that hasn’t happened.”
Condry said you could probably ask 10 meteorologists why there hasn’t been more tornadoes and probably get 10 different answers.
“My personal thoughts are just the lack of instability, the lack of storms moving across the state,” he said. “Of course, if you don’t have storms, you can’t have tornados.”
Tornado season, according to Condry, pretty much ranges from about March until May for Arkansas.
“Different areas across the United States are going to have their different times,” he said. “The way I kind of think about it is you have that winter that is not ready to give up and you have the summer that is trying to take over and in between that time period, we have spring and that spring time is when we are most likely to see tornados with the more unstable atmosphere. By unstable, I mean the systems coming in, the large temperature differences. You’ve got really cold air still in the upper plains and that really warm moist air here near the Gulf of Mexico.”
Looking back on Arkansas tornados, Condry said a lot of what he hears in the office centers on the “super outbreaks in 2011. Those were kind of multiple events over a few days. Another one would be in 2014, the Mayflower-Vilonia tornado, that was a pretty big one that stands out among a lot of people at the office here.”
According to the National Weather Service’s tweet April 27 this year, the NWS recalled seven years ago the tornado that killed 16 people and injured 200 others. “After lifting north of El Paso, this supercell spawned three more, weaker tornadoes to the northeast.”
Other findings in the quotewizard.com research was that the overall the number of tornadoes from 2010-2019 increased by 11.7 percent. The five states that saw the most increase were Wyoming (93.8 percent), Kentucky (84.1 percent), Pennsylvania (83.3 percent), Mississippi (74.8 percent) and Louisiana (70.4 percent).
The state with the biggest drop in tornadoes was South Carolina, with a 41.2 percent decrease, following by Florida (34.9 percent), South Dakota (23.3 percent) and then Arkansas. South Carolina had 114 fewer tornadoes than during the previous 10 years while Florida had 190 fewer.