Shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, a powerful thunderstorm moved across west Little Rock and Little Rock. Estimated wind gusts of 70 mph toppled trees and power lines, leaving roughly 14,000 people without power in Pulaski County.

Storm damage to a home in Little Rock. Photo: Rylie Birdwell

The thunderstorm developed around Pleasant Valley and near the Big Rock Interchange. It tracked farther east and southeast over Cammack Village, then toward War Memorial Stadium.

Based off of radar and damage, this type of storm was likely a microburst. These are common in the Southeast during summer, as ample heat and moisture are needed for them to form.

The storm moved through quickly, with heavy rain reducing visibility. Less than an hour later, sunny skies returned to Little Rock. Rainfall estimates on radar were around 1″ where the storm rolled through.

Little Rock hit 102°F Wednesday afternoon and dew points were in the upper 70s. These types of conditions produce strong updrafts in towering thunderstorms. Once the updraft starts to weaken, it turns into a downdraft.

Think of throwing a water balloon up high into the air and letting it burst. What comes up, must come down. And in the case of a downburst, it is heavy rain, damaging wind, sometimes with large hail.

The “micro” comes into play because the straight-line wind from the downburst expands across an area less than 2½ miles in diameter. This is why west Little Rock had storm damage, but North Little Rock did not even see rain.

Severe storms tracked farther southeast over Arkansas Wednesday evening. Monticello Airport recorded a wind gust of 59 mph closer to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The storms developed along and ahead of a cold front moving in from the northwest across the state.

As the cold front tracks farther southeast out of the state, rain and storms will come to an end. Most activity should dissipate by sunset. Thursday will be less humid with rain chances returning for the first half of Friday.

Cooler and drier air will settle in across the region for the weekend and into next week, so the likelihood of another possible microburst is slim to none in the extended forecast.


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