It could be worse — Drought, high temperatures previously scorched Arkansas, NWS records show


It’s certainly hot and dry in Arkansas, but it could be – and has been – equally bad or worse, according to the National Weather Service.

Past droughts and wildfires have resulted in crop and livestock losses, and prolonged heat waves have taken the lives of some Arkansans. Here’s a look back at some of the state’s hardest-hitting spring, summer and fall extremes:

• 2011 – The summer numbered among the hottest and driest on record. Little Rock experienced a record high of 114 degrees while Fort Smith registered 115. Afternoon heat index values topped 120 degrees in eastern counties.

• 2010 – Excessively dry conditions sparked several October wildfires at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. Smoke and haze hovered over the Little Rock metropolitan area for more than a week. The summer’s average low temperature was the second-warmest ever in Jefferson County.

• 1980 – Little Rock suffered its hottest-ever July with 15 consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures, including eight straight days of 105 or higher. Over the entire summer, there were 47 days with readings of at least 1oo degrees.

• 1954 – Seventy-four of the state’s 75 counties applied for federal drought relief due to severe agricultural losses. Low humidity prompted state authorities to describe forests as being in their “most explosive” condition in two decades. Ozark reached 116 degrees on July 13.

• 1953 – The Mississippi County town of Wilson endured what is apparently the state’s longest dry spell, failing to receive measurable rainfall for 101 consecutive days, from July 18-Oct. 26. Temperatures of at least 100 degrees occurred in late September and early October.

• 1936 – No rain fell in Monticello during August. On Aug. 10, Ozark sizzled at 120 degrees – the state’s highest-ever reading. Corning reached 113 degrees for a state-record June high.

• 1935 – Hot Springs had one of its hottest five-day spans ever with temperatures between 110 and 113 during early August.

• 1896 – Blistering heat, bolstered by one of the state’s worst-ever droughts, heavily damaged cotton and corn crops. Pastures shriveled, leaving hay in short supply. Stock water evaporated, becoming more and more scarce. Livestock suffered, with many succumbing during the disaster’s July-August peak.

• 1887 – Smoke filled November skies in the aftermath of widespread forest fires, which followed weeks of dry conditions.

• 1874 – Summer heat and drought stretched into fall, taking a painfully heavy toll on crops and livestock. The Calhoun County town of Hampton became dusty when it went without rain for at least 75 days.

• 1868 – Little Rock received one one-hundreth of an inch of rain on Oct. 29, its only measurable precipitation between Oct. 1 and Nov. 9.

• 1856 – Crops suffered during a hot and mostly dry summer and fall. To add insult to injury, what crops remained were then largely washed away by heavy rains.

• 1850 – No rain fell in Little Rock during September, hampering area crops.

• 1846 – Hot, dry conditions generated a number of forest fires statewide.

• 1825 – Excessive heat during an August stretch of about 10 days resulted in a number of deaths and illnesses. Meanwhile, a number of crops were severely damaged or destroyed.

• 1823 – Winds and a lack of rainfall contributed to fires that broke out in Central Arkansas during November. Smoke became so heavy in the Little Rock area that it sometimes blocked the sun. Finally, heavy rains arrived, snuffing out the fires and clearing the smoke.