2/24/07 REPORTS: AR / MS

Wow, I know I couldn't have been the only one who went to Arkansas and/or Mississippi. What a WILD day! Travelled on 2-23 from South Carolina to be ready for today. Woke up in Greenwood to dewpoints around 35, temps around 55, and rain. Even so, 90% of the ingrediants were there, so I pretty much stayed with my schedule. By noon, the temp was 74, and the dewpoint around 60. I decided to head for Greenville, MS, so I could easily jump into Arkansas if it started to look better than the Mississippi side. By the time I got there, it was pretty obvious I needed to get up into Arkansas. I booked it on Hwy 65, and got into Dumas, Arkansas 7 minutes after the tornado ripped through there. My camcorder is mounted to my dash, and it's a straight shot into Dumas, but even with all that, everything was totally rainwrapped, and I could see was intense lightning before coming into Dumas. The DEVESTATION! It was really heartwrenching to see all the businesses completely destroyed...Freds, NAPA, a grocery store, liquor store, etc etc etc. People were just standing in the rain, not knowing what to do, where to go, or anything. There were only three or four police cars yet, and I joined others in trying to find and dig people out. The smell of gas permeated the entire area, and then sirens of emergency vehicles started up from just about every direction. There were cars overturned, in ditches, and a LOT of them dented up, and facing just about every direction. There was a tractor-trailor overturned, with a load of dog food, and the guy used my phone to call his wife. I stayed for about an hour, then decided I should probably go, as there were around 50-60 emergency vehicles whizzing around stranded cars and debris. Also, there was a report of a new tornado warning for the same area, and i wanted to find a safe spot. I headed a couple of miles north, where I pulled over at a church to take pics of the approaching tornado-warned storm, and quickly saw I could be in trouble. I asked a cop which direction HE thought I should go. (I had lost my connection..phone and laptop). He said to "fly' North. I started out north, but after about three miles, decided it was NOT good advice, and did a U'ee, and "flew' back towards Dumas. 5 minutes later, the sky was green, lowering wall cloud, and it started to hail. I was in Mitchellville, and just pulled up to a house with people on the porch, and asked them if I could join them! LOL they said yes, and we waited the storm out. Reports later said a tornado touched down around Mitchellville, but I couldn't confirm that. On the way back to Greenwood, MS, I drove through four tornado-warned counties...Desha, AR, Drew, AR, LeFlore, MS, and finally Sunflower, MS. I went through Indianola, MS around 7:20PM, and according to TV accounts, a tornado touched down there at 7:02PM, and in LeFlore county..Itta Bena had a touchdown around 7:20PM..probably the same storm that hit Indianola. The lightning was spectacular with the Indianola and Itta Bena storms, but poor video due to rain. It was one of the most exciting days chasing I've ever had, and yet...one of the saddest days. My heart goes out to the people of Dumas, Arkansas. The latest report I saw was 11 injuries, some serious, but NO fatalities.

***Thanks to Ken Hughey and Jim King for their help....... especially when I lost my laptop connections!! The last time I talked to Ken, he had taken shelter at a hotel in Clarksdale, MS, and Jim had made it back to Little Rock, and was watching his video of the Dumas tornado.

EDIT*** total miles...1,240. Drive time...20h 14m
 
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No you was'nt the only ones. Myself, my wife Cheryl & Laura Walters, all NWS KPAH ventured to Memphis area yesterday. Warm front was not showing much northern movement really at 11 AM yesterday so hoped we could get there & maybe just see what happens. We got on the large cell SW of Memphis & set up Just SE of Memphis. on highway 57. Watched the local tv reports live & heard the reports of damage in Dumas then waited so we had room to escape either east or move in to west. waited. Temp was 61 at our location but dews were marginal at best. Near Tunica dews were better, so seen the storm actually weekening before memphis. Watched storm to west & seen some structure left but not even a wall cloud present. When these things started lining out....What a rain storm, 2-3 inch an hour rates when we hopped on I-55 south of Memphis in Mississippi. Got a couple of weak structure pics Ill try to get posted. Essentially the boundry was a bit south of Memphis. Wish we could have left a hour of hours sooner, we would have got on much earlier in SE AR. Overall a good first ever long distance chase, we did have fun, and a good road trip for our tenth year as NWS spotters. Never have had a setup like this to chase in Feb so didnt know what to expect. but felt bad for residents of Dumas. Hope all is ok. Now we are turning attention to next system for wed/thurs. Miles traveled, a record 585 round trip for us.
Kevin
 
This is an excerpt of the chase report for 2-24-07. I am looking at the cell headed for Dumas, AR from ten miles south of Dumas.

Nothing looked right. It was hard to read the line. Dark cores of rain to the west, indecipherable distances, everything wooly. God, but I HATE linear situations for chasing. To just groove on, sure. Lightning photos? You bet. But where to observe the wall? Things get mixed in very quickly from one embedded cell to the next. All I know is that I want to stay to the southeast side of the storm. But it’s a line. There’s no damn BACK to the thing. It’s like reverse core-punching; it has to overtake you at some point. And with the Arkansas and Mississippi and White rivers to my north and east, there was nowhere to go if things got hairy.
Well, there’s the rub. A chaser decides where to chase, and if he lies down with squall line dogs, he gets up with large, invisible, cyclonic fleas. Possibly dropping right on him.
While running up 65 to Dumas, NWS issued a Tornado Warning for Hermitage. That was my cell! The same one I progged to hit north of Dumas in Monticello!
Realizing I had to stop using so many exclamation points, I ran up the road, all the while looking to the west. It didn’t look tornadic to me. Hell, it didn’t look like it was raining. But as it approached, a dark wedge of hard rain to the south of the cell piqued my interest.
A Tornado Warning for Wilmer came over the radio just after three thirty, and a look at the map confirmed my target. Dumas it was. It still looked to pass north of town.
I stopped on the south side of town, pulled into a parking lot, and faced the truck west. The core of the storm was approaching. I filmed what I could, but the rain seemed to blur everything. There was no getting out of the truck, or even opening a window; it swirled from every direction. The darkness increased to the west and then started moving north, just as I figured it would.
The phone rang; it was a roofer I’d hired earlier that week.
“Where you at?” he asked. He knew I was chasing today. “Damn, you’re in the thick of it, aintcha? I hear there’s hunnerd mahl an hour wee-unds!” A gust half that rocked the truck.
I was filming shingles being bent back on a building across the street by winds that had suddenly shifted directly out of the east. That woke me up. Very serious inflow jet. It was close, and it was impossible to see. The time was somewhere around three.
My film shows me chatting, then becoming concerned with what I was seeing in the wind direction. Then I say
“Damn. I don’t like this. Gotta go, Robert,” and the next piece of film has me north of town.
Half the reason I went north had to do with the fact that it seemed to be moving that way quickly; the other half had my alarm bells ringing. I trust my instincts, but they sometimes override my brain. Hindsight has me running south. It was an inflow jet, after all. But the dark core was already moving north.
On the north side of town I pulled over and got slammed by torrential rain and monstrous winds. After less than a minute of this, I saw the wall cloud emerge from the rain ahead of me; it looked to be spinning like a top. The film confirms this.
After it crossed the road a half mile to the north, I ran up the road to a place of fewer trees and snapped a couple of stills while filming before watching it disappear into a swirling rain core.
Then, to my surprise, I saw the tornado to the southeast; the rain around me had obscured it. At least a mile away, it appeared as a dark gray wedge; it seemed to get swallowed into the wall cloud, then the rain wrapped it up completely
I couldn’t believe it. I’d been watching the wrong wall cloud! The thing was behind me the whole time!
Knowing it was headed for the Arkansas River, I realized there was no catching it. A Tornado Warning for the White River Wildlife Refuge came over the radio, and I thought about Ivory Bill, if he exists.
A call to my brother Jay confirmed another line was going to train over the same area, and I wanted to be further east on a road that ran to the northeast (65 goes northwest), so I ran down 212 to 165, where I set up just north of the Pendleton Bridge over the Arkansas River. Another warning came for Mitchellville to my southwest, and I was in perfect position. Several other chasers had pulled onto farm access aprons that faced west, as had I.
It looked just like the storm in Dumas; a dark wedge of rain tapering to the horizon to the southwest.
A cop car raced south behind me. Then another, and another. Three ambulances followed.
‘Somebody got hit,’ I thought.
Just as the core approached, I could see it’s butt was going to roll right over me, so I ran south where I could be in a better (and safer) position.
It passed just north of me while I was, of all places, crossing the Pendleton Bridge. A two-lane arch almost a hundred feet above the river, I saw the water below whipped into solid foam as the seventy mph gusts tried to help me across. I filmed from the south side, but, of course it was completely rain-wrapped. Just as it moved off, six more emergency vehicles raced by.
I called my brother again, and he confirmed what I already knew from looking at the sky; the thing was over for me. There were more lines of Warned storms moving into Lake City and Greenville MS to the southeast, but they would be gone by the time I got there. I’d done my best, and it didn’t seem too good to me.
Rats.
At least I got a few seconds of the receding Dumas tornado.
Backtracking down 212 to 65, I turned north, encountering dozens and dozens of emergency vehicles headed south, sirens and lights blaring. Perhaps there had been a touchdown back towards Dumas? Well, the area had at least five Tornado Warnings, so I suspected there was some damage. But Highway Department trucks? Semis with lights and sirens toting earth moving equipment?
I called Jay again.
“Hey, check the news on the teevee and see what got hit down here.”
He called me back a minute later.
“Man, you wouldn’t believe it. Dumas got slammed. The Fred’s is in ruins, and, omigod, they’re showing a view from the chopper. It looks like a quarter-mile path. Now they’re saying there were at least two tornadoes. How would they know that?”
I didn’t know, but I know that I watched one rotating wall cloud while the actual tornado ripped up the town a few hundred yards behind me (turns out that the second tornado came out of the Mitchellville cell an hour later).
I was pissed off and thankful at the same time. Pissed that I followed the wrong wall cloud, and thankful I moved when I did.
I had been positioned next to Fred’s when the roofer called.
 
A little late, but....I just ripped this off my report on my site so it's just a cut 'n' paste. Sorry.

At 3.00am on the morning of the 24th, we were woken up by spectacularly bright lightning and muffled thunder – more than likely as a result of obscured anvil crawlers overhead. Our return flow had arrived, with numerous elevated thunderstorms forming on the nose of the LLJ.

Given that we were unable to chase the cold core setup on the 24th (central KS is a bridge too far for these chasers in late February!), we prepared for an early, fast chase and were looking forward to the opportunity of ironing out any creases in our new laptop/equipment. By 9.00AM we headed out with the idea of positioning somewhere with WiFi in Lonoke. The drive south and east on I-40 was a wet one amidst the constant thundershowers – a theme that seemed poised to take over the entire day. We hoped for some good chasing east or southeast from Little Rock today – in the Arkansan Plains.

We arrived in Lonoke around 9.40AM after battling our way there through the ridiculous southerly gales. The drive had been dizzying trying to keep your eyes on the road while the gray strato-cu raced against the equally gray sky. Lonoke was dry – being out ahead of the line – but this didn’t last long. A quick search of Lonoke turned up some free WiFi and we stayed there for the rest of the morning watching data. Around 11.00AM the thunderstorms caught up with us – making it a very wet wait-out for mother nature. February. Yuck. The new SWODY1 was issued and stayed almost exactly the same, and SPC later issued an MCD with a hand-drawn area of extreme southeastern AR and northeastern LA at highest risk for tornadoes. The was due to the greater instability – Tds in this region were broadly in the 60s whereas across most of the rest of AR they were struggling in the 50s.

1.00PM came and we grabbed some lunch on the go on our way southeast – Jason had expressed a desire to reposition to Stuttgart to at least be a little nearer the favorable chase conditions. Besides – two lines of storms to our west delineated the pre-frontal trough and the dryline respectively. We drove east on I-40 for a short time and noticed that the strato-cu was breaking up into rolls, almost giving us sight of blue sky above but not quite. The winds still ripped at the van as we took the Hazen exit and went south on Hwy 86 to Stuttgart in Arkansas county. After exiting off the tree-lined interstate, it was extremely interesting to see the landscape give way to rolling Plains that the Texas Panhandle would be proud of. Vast green and brown fields dotted with grain silos and irrigation equipment reminded me that Arkansas’ hidden gem may not be it’s diamonds in the rough but it’s pristine chase territory that nobody ever admits is there.

We found WiFi at the Super 8 in Stuttgart just as the whole county apparently became socked-in with rain around 1.35PM. Intense thunderstorms on the northern end of the most significant line in the state were bringing battering rain and wind as we sat gathering data. We could see nothing, except on radar. All around us was grayness and rain. Never makes for a good chase day.
After perusing data it became apparent that the only area with any potential in the whole state was – as we had feared all along – going to be in the extreme southeastern portion of the state. A very intense line of more cellular storms was moving into the counties of Ashley and Drew in Arkansas, and a tornado-warned cell was just crossing the border. It was a tail-end-charlie of sorts and the warning text stated that funnels and tornadoes with this storm had been sighted. It also stated that the cell motion was between 65 and 75mph to the northeast. Gawd.

Jason decided to make a dash for it and see if we could get down there in time. It looked unlikely but we decided to give it a go. Leaving Stuttgart around 1.55pm, we headed south of town on Hwy 165 to undertake our tortuous journey. Our road to the southern tornado-warned storm was through many of the less intense, messy, squally, rainy storms that were north of it. We drove as fast as the conditions would allow (60mph was really it), and even at that the roads became hydroplaning risks with standing water collecting in the ruts. The southerly wind, coupled with blowing heavy rain and the high winds being mixed down to the surface by the storms made it slow going. Soon Hwy 165 turned hard left, signaling our westerly jaunt towards the city of De Witt, AR. We were in Arkansas county. The weather radio was churning out tornado warnings for our target cell constantly, as this was the only source of data we had for the upcoming intercept, and it put the cell around Monticello in Drew county and it was closing fast on Dumas – our target town. The problem with cells moving at 70mph, however, is that by the time you hear a warning stating where the cell is going to be at a certain time – it is already well on it’s way to being there, if not actually there already. We reached De Witt and turned south for our last sprint towards Dumas at around 2.35PM. I had hauled the Rand McNally out of the backseat and was tracing projected paths for the storm from the information I could decipher from the weather radio. On it’s current projected path, I calculated that the tornado would possibly pass just north of Dumas and cross our road shortly thereafter.

Passing through Gillett we saw some intense inter-cloud lightning on the backside of what we could only assume was the tornadic storm’s anvil. We were still flying south, but it was no use. We pulled the reigns on our chase about two miles north of Black Gate AR and sat up on the shoulder of the highway. The warnings on the radio, along with our own eyes, told us that we had been beaten to Dumas by the beast. Not only that – but staying where we were was putting ourselves in unnecessary danger from a storm whose probable-tornado was southwest of us, wrapped in rain and barreling towards us at 70mph. We wheeled around and – with the increasing feeling that “something” was in close proximity in the midst of our pseudo-hurricane – we fled north of Gillett again and waited until warnings on the radio confirmed damage in Dumas and that the storm was now near Back Gate and headed east of our highway. We took an exploratory jaunt along the easterly road towards Tichnor, but there was nothing of interest to see except a very convincing looking scud bomb that loomed out of the mist at us (see left).

Having given our all amidst the spray and rain and wind and zero visibility, we turned north for good and decided to head home while listening to the damage reports starting to come out of Dumas. Stopping in Gillett for the restroom we actually found a WiFi signal that would download a radar image for us. This showed us that the Dumas storm was still very intense and rocketing off across the river, and that the cells north in the line (towards us) were intensifying rather rapidly. It was time to get out of this mess.
The only other notable event this afternoon happened to us west of De Witt. While driving on the leg of the road that heads west, we entered a particularly intense rain core. Once inside this, the winds picked up drastically from the south, blasting north. Our visibility was reduced to zero, and Jason slowed the van to 30mph to keep us on the road while we got blown across the highway. Suspicious-looking spray wafted north across the embankments of our highway, making the road run like a river and covering our windshield with a film of flat water that made it impossible to see through except the half-millisecond after the wipers had passed over the surface. We estimate that winds crossing our highway on this portion of the chase to have been between 70 and 80mph.
With knuckles turning a hint of white, we then suddenly experienced a slight clearing of the precipitation, allowing us to look around. Jason thought he saw a low base directly to our southwest in the field, I on the other hand looked north and distinctly picked up on what I thought was defined curtains of rain in the field to our north. Funnily enough, not a word was said inside our vehicle. It was, in fact, deathly quiet. I didn’t want to rattle the driver any more than entirely necessary, and Jason sure as hell didn’t want to tell me (the bag-o’-nerves) that he thought he saw a base right over us.
I clenched my teeth as we plowed westwards. The bend in the road – the turn north that would take us out of this mess once and for all – was coming up. We both heard a few clicks of hail on the windshield, and then almost as suddenly our vehicle was bathed in milky light as we rounded the rear of our “feature” (let’s just call it a “feature”). I’ll be damned……an RFD.

By the time we made it up to England, AR we were bathed in refreshing post-frontal sunlight. Looking back southeast, all that was visible of our storms was a thin haze and some modest cumulus. The Dumas tornado may as well have been spawned by stratus.

KL

P.S. - The restriction on # of characters when posting really sucks. I had to chop paragrapsh out just to get it to post!
 
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first chase of 07...worked out real nice for me...i ended up by that leflore county tornado and i had no idea it was even there until i got back to the house...i was on hwy 82 and we saw lightning everywhere and i couldent see a thing because of the low clouds and trees...there was straight-line winds and i seen a transformer explode right in front of me! first time, and it was crazy...didnt get that on video...but ill have video up...i know i was in the town of matheston and the power kept going off...and i saw a grip of firetrucks and firemarshals going somewhere...i mean they even closed of a portion of the road...my girlfreind was scared really bad...shes scared of storms, and to be honest with yall...i was too...we had no intel on the storms at all, and for all i knew with all that lightning...it could have been right there next to us and we would never have seen it...

heres a pic of where we started...and a bad storm near oxford MS...

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http://i108.photobucket.com/albums/n9/wxchaser420/IMG_0007-2.jpg
dont got any shots of the night storms because there wasnt anything to see...

got me a good 428 miles that day...then we got a high risk ;)
 
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