April 03, 2018  

This was an unexpected start to the 2018 chase season for us.  The afternoon before, Brian Stertz and I had discussed the possibility of a chase, but dismissed the idea as parameters just did not look too right.  No supercells.  A quick transition to a line.  I never even looked at data after that until I get a text from Brian again around 9:30am letting me know that things had changed for the afternoon and now things were looking much better for a potential chase in Southeastern Missouri or Northeastern Arkansas.  Now there was isolated supercells, potential tornadoes, and a healthy uptick in the Storm Prediction Center outlook.  Although Brian was unable to chase, that information put me into a scramble mode to try getting a chase put together in a rather short window of opportunity.  I was able to secure our friend, Tom Zeitinger to join me for a chase.  At the very last minute, my son Ryan got off of work and was able to join us as well.  By 12:15pm, we were on the road. 

Our original target was going to be Sikeston, Missouri where we anticipated stopping to reassess the situation as we filled the gas tank.  The HRRR weather model was consistent in showing a couple of supercells cutting east across southeastern Missouri along with several more down in Arkansas.  This continued to hold true for each new model run which solidified our decision for this Sikeston target.  When we arrived in Sikeston, we wavered a little and then decided to continue going west to Poplar Bluff as radar indicated the very start of some cells out by Branson, MO.  There were also cells forming down in Arkansas that needed to be monitored as well.  When we got to Dexter, MO, we then got the gas tank filled and decided to make this town our hangout town as we watched the storms develop out to the west.  From here, we had good road network in all directions unlike that of Poplar Bluff.  We grabbed some lunch at the Burger King in town and watched the radar and gathered more data.  As things progressed, there were two cells that were of greatest interest.  One of them was down inside the Arkansas border to our southwest and the other was the Branson cell to the west heading right toward Poplar Bluff.  We watched and got feedback from Brian Stertz who was now also watching the storm data from his home and providing some nowcasting for us.

As the storms moved closer, our decision was finally made to stick with the cell that was heading toward Poplar Bluff.  It weakened slightly as it approached Poplar Bluff which caused us some concern, but the weakening was short lived and it began increasing in severity again.  It quickly became severe warned.  We had moved south out of Dexter just far enough so that we knew we'd be out of the storm's path, and then moved west to meet the storm.  This route we hoped would put us in a spot to safely look into the interesting part of the storm as it approached.  As we met the storm, it had now become tornado warned.  Unfortunately, the storm had a lot of haze and rain curtains wrapping around the wall cloud which made for difficult viewing.

As the storm worked its way closer, we would watch and then we'd be forced to move east to get away from the rain and the hail that was wrapping around the storm.  We did this a couple of times and had no luck seeing anything under the mostly hidden wall cloud.  After we passed through the city of Bernie, MO driving east escaping the rain again, the sound of "tornado" rings out in the car.  The tornado had sneaked out of the rain curtains and the haze and made a quick showing.  We quickly tried to get a camcorder on the tornado and find a spot to stop.  Neither seemed to happen very quickly.  We finally got the camcorder working and pointed out the window in the backseat, but unknown to us, the focus on the camcorder was very blurred leading to some very less than adequate pictures (below).   We continued to see the tornado through the rain curtains for a brief time, but it wasn't long before the tornado was overtaken by the rain curtain and was once again hidden from view.

We continued to keep just out of reach of the storm as we moved east stopping multiple times to attempt another sighting of the allusive tornado that we knew was probably in the mess according to the wind velocity reading, but another sighting was not in the cards for us.  We let the storm catch us at Interstate 55 and pass us by.  There were no other chasing options at this point and called it the end of the chase.

Paducah National Weather Service - Storm Survey

11.0 Hours  -  414 Miles

Click on the link below to see video of some of these storms.

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