March 12, 2020   

The first chase opportunity of the year and expectations for a tornadic day for Southeast Missouri were ramping up as the hours got closer.  My son and I got an early start as we thought we'd make a side trip into the Mississippi River Valley on the way down to our chase target to see if we could find the pair of Whooping Cranes that have been hanging around those fields.  After driving through the valley, we finally came upon them feeding in a distant field. 


We were able to get some pictures just before the Cranes decided to fly to a more remote spot in the valley and thus ending our photo session.

Now it was off to our chase target.  After a quick lunch in Perryville, Missouri, we chose Sikeston, Missouri as our holding place.  We arrived in Sikeston around 2:45pm.  Storms were forecasted to initiate between 4:00pm-5:00pm.  We chatted with several other chaser friends in a gas station parking lot as we waited.  Wasn't long before storms began developing.  The first one on the Missouri/Arkansas border around Mountain Home, Arkansas, and then a couple more cells to the northeast of that one up in Missouri.  We watched the cells on radar and then made the decision to head west on Highway 60 toward Poplar Bluff, Missouri.  The southern most cell of the two cells that erupted in Missouri seemed to be tracking just north of Poplar Bluff.  
As we arrived in Poplar Bluff, the storm was still west of town, so we continued driving further west.  As we approached the storm, a Tornado Warning was issued.

With the storm now Tornado warned, finding a safe location with a good view was now a priority as the hills and trees west of Poplar Bluff made visibility extremely difficult.  We decided play the storm conservatively and keep our distance in front of the storm knowing eventually the storm was going to cross the highway.   At one point, the NOAA Weather Radio announced a "Large and Dangerous Tornado" and also used the words "Particularly Dangerous Situation". 

We knew that if the storm crossed the highway and cut us off, the road network west of Poplar Bluff would cause us to fall behind the storm and we'd never catch up and could potentially miss out on the view of a tornado in the preferred area east of Poplar Bluff.  
Reports of large hail was also a deterrent to getting in close.  We continued to stay out ahead of the storm coming at us, but did have a few looks as the storm hugged the highway to the north.

Our hopes continued high that we'd be seeing a tornado as we again emerged out into the flat land east of the city.  There would then be a better choice of road options to position ourselves for optimal viewing.  We positioned ourselves just south of the area of interest as it came into the flatland, but unfortunately the storm was weakening and the wall cloud was disappearing .

As we followed the storm, it continued to weaken and never showed any real attempt at gaining strength as it entered the more stable air.  We considered going back to the west for some new cells that had formed behind our original storm, but with the daylight soon to be fading and those new storms not showing any intensifying, we made the choice to start heading home.

We found out later that the report of the "Large and Dangerous Tornado" was not substantiated by the other chasers that were closer or right under the storm and was a bogus report from local law enforcement.  There were however two EF0 tornadoes west of Poplar Bluff discovered later during an NWS survey.

11.5 Hours  -  501 Miles

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

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