Arkansas weekend forecast includes risk of severe weather

This graphic from the National Weather Service highlights portions of the state that could see severe weather on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (National Weather Service/X)
This graphic from the National Weather Service highlights portions of the state that could see severe weather on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. (National Weather Service/X)

A storm system that could bring severe weather to much of Arkansas this weekend is moving faster than previously predicted, forecasters said Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service forecast now includes a chance of severe weather Friday evening in western parts of state.

That part of Arkansas, which includes Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Harrison, Hot Springs and Texarkana, could see storms and severe weather once the strong cold front surges through the state, according to the severe weather briefing the weather service released on Wednesday.

Most of the area is at a marginal risk of severe weather, the briefing said. Storms could produce winds as strong s 60 mph and hail as big as a quarter.

The National Weather Service defines a marginal risk as isolated storms that may be limited in duration, coverage or intensity.

"If there are storms that develop, and that is still uncertain at this point, hail will be the primary hazard," said Dylan Cooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock.

"Whatever happens Friday night and Saturday before dawn is not where our primary focus and most of the risks are," he said Wednesday afternoon.

Meteorologists are still seeing a lot of uncertainty about Saturday's severe weather, Cooper warned.

"There is a risk of severe thunderstorms on Saturday as the front plows into an unseasonably mild (springlike) and unstable environment as it moves across the state," the weather briefing said.

Most of Arkansas, with the exception of the northwest corner of the state, could see severe weather, the briefing said.

Forecasters said it is going to rain and that environment will support strong to severe storms over portions of southern and and eastern Arkansas. They aren't sure if the storms will actually develop, according to a tweet from the weather office in North Little Rock.

Cooper said forecasters are concerned about how much stronger the storms will be if they develop later in the afternoon on Saturday.

"All hazards of severe weather -- so tornadoes, hail and strong winds -- are possible on Saturday," he said. "But there is no slam dunk on any of them. At this time, I cannot specify a main threat."

Little Rock, and much of Central Arkansas, may see storms earlier in the day, Cooper said.

"Going off of the flavor of it, or the general pattern, it's looking like, if a storm pops up, it will be closer to the late morning and early afternoon, but that may change," he said.

"It's not overnight, so that's a positive, but it might just be earlier in the day than most people expect to see severe weather," Cooper said.

While there may be isolated storms that contain severe weather, the forecaster said models are not indicating an outbreak of widespreads storms.

"Because so much about this forecast is still uncertain, we'd just encourage everybody to check their trusted weather source frequently and stay aware," Cooper said.

CHANCE OF SNOW LOWERED

Cooper also said the chance for snow accumulation in northern parts of the state had decreased.

"Cooler and more seasonal air will follow the front Saturday night into Sunday. A few wet, snowflakes will be possible on the backside of this system; however, latest trends have significantly lowered and in some cases eliminated chances for any snow. No winter impacts are expected," the weather briefing said.

"We don't foresee much accumulation," the forecaster said.