LITTLE ROCK Much of Arkansas is under a moderate risk for severe weather Tuesday as a line of storms moves through packing winds up to 80 mph, and possibly spawning tornadoes, the National Weather Service warned.
Five counties in Northwest Arkansas joined 27 Missouri counties and 16 Oklahoma counties under a tornado watch until 3 p.m.: Benton, Carroll, Crawford, Madison and Washington.
"You can expect additional Tornado Watches to be issued in the state this afternoon and this evening," wrote weather service Warning Coordination Meteorologist John Robinson in an e-mailed statement about 10 a.m.
The entire state is under the threat of severe weather, but the area southeast of a line from Ashdown to Clarksville to Mountain Home has the strongest chances, Robinson said.
The system is expected to start as scattered showers and thunderstorms ahead of a front in northern and western parts of the state in the afternoon and evening. It will then evolve into a line of storms moving west to east through the evening and overnight, the weather service said.
The storms will move at more than 50 mph with wind gusts reaching the 60 mph-to-80 mph range.
"This is enough to down trees and power lines," the weather service said in a statement. "Trees are particularly vulnerable now following a widespread drought and heavy snow during the holiday season."
Instances of large hail are possible, according to the weather service.
Isolated tornadoes are also possible, likely in storms ahead of the main line, officials said.
"There is some chance of a tornado or two reaching EF2 intensity," Robinson wrote.
Heavy rain could also cause problems, with 2 to 4 inches possible in parts of north and west Arkansas.
Meanwhile, the NOAA Weather Radio transmitters operated by the NWS office in
Memphis suffered a hardware problem earlier in the day, but the problem has been corrected, the weather service said.
3:50 p.m. Update
In an e-mail sent at 3:45 p.m., Robinson wrote that the strongest individual storms during the late afternoon will occur in the northwest part of the state and will have the potential to produce a tornado.
A new line of storms currently west of the state should hit the western part of Arkansas in the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. time frame, Robinson wrote. The same line should move through the middle part of the state around 9 p.m. and are expected to hit eastern Arkansas between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.
With this new line, Robinson says hail and high winds possibly exceeding 75 mph are the main threat. A few tornadoes are expected this evening, but they are more likely to develop out of any big storms that develop ahead of the main line of storms.
The storms are expected to move through areas at around 50 mph.
5:45 p.m. Update
The National Weather Service in Little Rock issue a Tornado Watch for most of the state until 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.