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Wild weather rings out the old year: tornado kills three in Arkansas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:31 PM GMT on December 31, 2010

The wild weather year of 2010 is closing out in dramatic fashion in the U.S., where a powerful storm system moving through the center of the country has spawned a tornado that killed three people in Northwest Arkansas early this morning. According to media reports, the tornado swept through Washington County in Northwest Arkansas between 6am - 6:10am CST this morning, killing three, injuring many more, and causing significant damage throughout the western portion of the county. Emergency responders are having difficulty reaching the damaged areas due to downed power lines, and power is out over most of the county. The supercell thunderstorm responsible for the tornado has maintained its identify for more than four hours along a path more than 200 miles long this morning, a unusually long time for a thunderstorm to maintain its identity. As of 11am EST, the tornado warnings for the thunderstorm has been issued for eastern Missouri, and the storm is headed towards St. Louis. Visit our interactive tornado page and severe weather page to monitor this ongoing severe weather situation. Today's three tornado deaths brought this year's tornado death toll to 39. This is higher than last year's record-low total of 21 tornado deaths, but much lower the 3-year average of 76 tornado deaths per year.

Figure 1. Radar reflectivity (top) and Doppler velocity image (bottom) of the supercell thunderstorm that hit northwestern Arkansas this moring, killing three people in the town of Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, the storm responsible for the deadly tornado is also bringing a dangerous winter storm to the West and Midwest. Blizzard warnings are in effect for southeastern Wyoming, western Nebraska, the Dakotas, and western Minnesota. According to the latest NOAA Storm Summary, the storm has dumped over 30 inches of snow in Colorado at Coal Bank Pass and Skyway, and at Sage Creek Basin in Wyoming. Some other selected snowfall amounts as of 10am EST:

Idaho City, ID: 36.0"
Soda Springs, CA: 36.0"
Deer Valley Daly West, UT: 33.0"
Williams, AZ: 29.5"
Sheep Canyon, WA: 29.0"
Missoula, MT: 24.0"
Flagstaff, AZ: 22.0"
Boise, ID: 20.0"
Green Mountain, NV: 20.0"
Durango, CO: 20.1"
Jackson, WY: 17.3"
Los Alamos, NM: 17.0"
Creighton, SD: 12.0"
Fergus Fall, MN: 11.0"
Williston, ND: 7.1"

The storm also brought very heavy rains in excess of two inches to portions of Arizona, Missouri, and Arkansas, with amounts in excess of four inches reported in California and Oregon. The storm will intensify and move northeastwards into Canada north of Minnesota tonight, bringing an additional 6 - 12 inches of snow to the warned areas.

Have a Happy New Year's everyone, and I'm hoping 2011 brings us a little less in the way of wild weather!

Jeff Masters
Crashing down
Crashing down
The owner of this car stands on the trunk of the 100 year old California Oak tree to take pictures of his damaged vehicle. The tree and others came down early this morning as fierce winds up to 75 MPH tore through the SoCal area, This pic was taken in the San Fernando Valley. The trees were no match for the heavy rains of last week the these winds.
Snow and Blue Sky
Snow and Blue Sky
So nice to see some sunshine. Taken on a FSR off the Mountain Loop Highway, Granite Falls, WA
12-31-2010 Tornado
12-31-2010 Tornado
Tornado (Preliminary est. F3) damage, Sunset Hills Missouri.


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.