March 09, 2019  

After a long, cold winter, my son Ryan and I were longing for an opportunity to get out and take our chances finding ourselves a nice storm, particularly one containing a tornado.  During mid season, we probably would have looked at this opportunity and passed based on location along with many other negative factors, but the early season draw had us biting.

We knew we needed an early start as storms were predicted by the early afternoon and were forecasted to be in unchaseable area by 3:00pm.  Ryan arrives at my house before 7:00am.  Before 7:30am, we were on the road heading south.  There appeared to be two target areas.  one along the warm front forecasted to be near the Missouri/Arkansas border and the other in the general vicinity of the Arkansas/Tennessee/Mississippi borders.  As with our usual routine when our chase partner Brian Stertz is unable to join us for a chase, we review our go-to weather models, read the forecast discussions and hazardous weather outlooks in the area, then we call to get Brian's forecast (which we weigh heavily in our decision), and then Ryan and I discuss the info and weigh the positives and negatives from all of the sources to come up with our chase target.

As we made our way south, we definitely did not like the massive area of rain that was covering southeastern Missouri, so we decided on the more southern target based.  Memphis south was still free of convection and had the stronger possibility of a broken line of supercells developing.  Brian, along with the models, agreed the possibility for a stronger tornado existed and slower storm motions were in this more southern area as well.  The downfall to this target was whether it would happen before crossing the river into Tennessee or Mississippi which would make it a much more difficult chase area.

We arrived to the target area around 12:30pm.  We had finally broken out of the rain that we experienced nearly the whole trip.  There were a couple tornado warnings out to the west in Central Arkansas earlier, so things looked promising.  We saw a small bow echo approaching our area from the west, so we chose
to cross the Mississippi River shortly after arriving in the area.  Darn it!  Sure was hoping for something in the Mississippi River Valley on the Arkansas side.  Surely, nothing tornadic appeared imminent though.  We shot south on I-55 and made a quick stop at the Visitors Center for a Mississippi Road Map (which we did not have - never chased Mississippi before), then moved down to Senatobia, Mississippi for the intercept and an east road option, Highway 4.  We began seeing a slight rotation on the velocity scan and a slight change in shape in the storm as the bow echo approached our Highway 4 intersection.  Not much to get excited about, but a start no less.  As the bow echo reaches us, the circulation part of the storm that we observed on radar was south of us.  Since the storm motions were slightly slower than the 55mph reported up in the Boot Heel of Missouri, we did manage to stay within range of the circulation as we moved east with it.  Not much of a view into the important part of the storm as the rain as well as the trees blocked the view most of the time.  Eventually, the storm began losing that bow structure and began looking more like a supercell as it moved east-north east.  A more prominent circulation took shape.  The storm gained ground on us due to heavy rain and slow traffic and crossed a few miles in front of us.  All we could see was the darkened area as rain hid the prized part inside.

By the time we reached Holly Springs, Mississippi, the storm was 5-10 miles in front of us.  Road options became more of the 'back road' variety at that point with the storm gaining more space between us.  Then, as if right on cue, the tornado warning comes out on the storm and 15-20 miles later, puts down a tornado west of Falkner, Mississippi.  Passed a few more cells on the trek back west as we started the long drive back home, but none of those storms seemed to gain any strength.  We eventually took a look back to the east at the storms as they moved away from us.

Since the chase day was over and there was still plenty of daylight, Ryan decided we had to have a wildlife photography stop, so we visited the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuse west of Blythesville, Arkansas on the way home and got a couple of early season snakes hanging out and the silhouette of a Great Horned Owl.


Interesting side note to the chase, as we were going east on Highway 4 chasing the storm, we came across an old tornado damage path where the trees were snapped off, limbs stripped off, and every tree deformed.  The homes in the area were all new with no old structures visible.  This went on for many miles until the end of Highway 4 when I turned.   Found out later this was a piece of the path from the December 23, 2015 - EF4 Tornado.  Amazing after 3 plus years, the tornado damage was still so clear.  The pictures don't do it justice as these are video stills through a blinding rain.  The total length of that tornado was 75.09 miles.

15.0 Hours  -  738 Miles

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

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