White Christmas rare for Arkansas

The song “White Christmas” is much more popular than the actual event it describes, in Arkansas at least.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock forecast, “below average temperatures on Christmas Day, but with dry conditions” for this year.
That forecast, they said, is “not surprising given very low odds of snow on the ground” on Christmas.
The National Weather Service has been keeping records in Arkansas since 1875 and the state saw snowfall in just 12 of those years on Christmas, while in three other years, the state already had snow on the ground, so people at least woke up to a White Christmas.
Of the 15 times, Arkansas has had a White Christmas, measurable snow was seen four times, with flurries or trace amounts falling eight times. The other three times were from Christmas Eve, or earlier, snow.

“Going by the averages, there is snow in the air or covering the ground on Christmas about once every nine to ten years,” the meteorologists said in 2019. “It is much more rare to have snow start on Christmas and accumulate (more than a trace on the ground) before the end of the day.”

That’s happened just twice, 1926 and the very recent Blizzard of 2012.

And 2012 was memorable for more than just being a White Christmas, it was the day where Arkansas saw a recorded nine inches of snow.

That was just what was recorded in Little Rock, most other parts of the state saw more than 10 inches of snow, with portions of north-central Arkansas getting 15 to a high of 17.5 inches, fall that day.

The snow didn’t stop either, 1.3 inches of snow were recorded in Little Rock on the following day, with other portions of the state getting more.

That White Christmas was also the first, and last, time the Weather Service issued a “blizzard warning” for northeast Arkansas. Making it the state’s first “official blizzard.”

The results from the snow were fairly typical, snarled roads, stranded travelers and more than 260,000 homes and businesses lost power that day, with the state taking a week, or more to recover.

Past White Christmases

  • 1876: Two inches of snow was on the ground from snowfall on Christmas Eve.

  • 1879:  Christmas Eve rain changed to snow, which continued into Christmas morning.

  • 1887: Snow fell with no accumulation.

  • 1897: one inch of snow fell on Christmas Day morning.

  • 1913: Snow started at midnight and continued on Christmas Day. A total of 1.5 inches of snow fell.

  • 1914: Snow fell with no accumulation.

  • 1918: Snow fell with no accumulation.

  • 1926: Sleet turned into snow with a total of 1.7 inches of sleet and 2.5 inches of snow. 

  • 1935: Snow fell with no accumulation.

  • 1939: Snow fell with no accumulation.

  • 1962: Christmas Eve snow of 1.5 inches but it melted during the night leaving only patches of snow on the ground Christmas morning.

  • In 1963: Heavy snow on Dec. 22 left more than four inches still on the ground by Christmas Day.

  • 1975: Snow fell with no accumulation.

  • 1983: Snow from earlier that week left about an inch of snow and ice still on the ground.

  • 1990: 2.4 inches of snow and sleet fell earlier in the week and most of it remained on the ground through Christmas Day.

  • 2000: A trace of snow was on the ground on Christmas Day but the worst was still to come as a major long-term ice storm developed that day and continued through Dec. 27. It left three inches of ice in Little Rock and more around the state, completely shutting down Arkansas in one of the worst ice storms in recorded history.

  • 2009: Snow fell with no accumulation.

  • 2012: Nine inches of snow in Little Rock, with more around Arkansas for the state’s snowiest White Christmas.