WEATHER BLOG: Jan. 21 Marks State’s Largest Tornado Outbreak

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The largest tornado outbreak in Arkansas history occurred on Jan. 21, 1999.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., issued at High Risk for severe weather across most of the state as a vigorous trough and above normal temperatures set the stage across the region.


January 21-22 Tornado Tracks

In all, 56 tornadoes were counted during the evening and overnight of the 21st lasting into the early morning hours on the 22nd across Arkansas.

Eight people were killed by the storms across the state including three in Pulaski County and five in White County. This in part of a very busy week of severe weather across the south central United States.

Between Jan. 7-22, a total of 150 tornadoes were recorded across the region, killing 17 people, injuring nearly 150 and costing an estimated $130.9 million in damages.


Of the 56 tornadoes in Arkansas, seven were rated F-3 and one was rated F-4. Of the seven F-3 tornadoes, one hit the downtown area of Little Rock making it one of the few recorded to hit a downtown area of a major city in recent history.

In Little Rock, 235 buildings were severely damaged or destroyed. Over 500 other buildings in Little Rock sustained lesser damage.


The previous record before an outbreak in a state was 34 which occurred on June 5, 1916. This outbreak also broke the following records:

  • Most tornadoes in a state on any day in January (previous record was 13 tornadoes on Jan. 10, 1975 in Alabama and on Jan. 24, 1997 in Tennessee).
  • Most tornadoes on one day in January across the United States (previous record was 39 tornadoes on Jan. 10, 1975).
  • Most tornadoes in any state in the month of January (previous record was 25 tornadoes in Texas in 1998).

– Weekend Meteorologist Tyler Southard