I was both lucky, and not so lucky, to have storm chasing opportunities on my way home to Indy and coming back from Indy for Christmas. In the process I also missed the major event here in Dallas on 12/26 while I was still up in Indy. Both chases turned out to be busts for me, but they should have been much better. My 2015 chase season has been full of poor decisions while chasing, and these two would be no different.
I left Dallas early on the 23rd with a vague target of somewhere along the Mississippi River south of Memphis. Storms had been going on all night, and were just to my east as I left town. I was treated to a very nice lightning show. I wish I would have stopped sooner and taken more pictures, but this was the best I could do on a brief stop along I-30.
Later in the morning I decided on Clarksdale, MS as my official target. I had planned on ignoring the ongoing line. The greater instability was going to be south of Memphis, and this was the area I figured had the greatest potential for a long-track, violent tornado.
I was a bit handicapped on this chase. I normally have my laptop, which allows me to have a great big screen with radar and other data on it. Well my laptop has been having issues, and is still sitting in a repair shop. So all I had was my phone.
For radar alone, this isn’t a bad deal at all. I really just need the radar to get me to the storm. Once I’m on it I can work off visual cues for the most part, unless it’s really rain-wrapped and I get caught in it and need to know where I am. For data, however, it’s iffy. It’s just a lot nicer to have the laptop and have quick and easy access to visible satellite and other current conditions.
I had reached my exit in Brinkley, AR to turn south toward Clarksdale, and started going through the town when my phone alert went off for a tornado warning in my area. I had just passed the line of storms in Little Rock, and they weren’t that impressive. Since it was still pretty early, I felt like I had time, so I’d go check it out and possibly score an early tornado up here, then get another in MS.
As I approached the storm, it had become outflow dominant on radar, so I didn’t bother getting really close to it. However, at that point it looked like the line was starting to break up into two classic supercells behind that one. If those dropped tornadoes, I wouldn’t want to miss them, so I stuck around.
Long story short, both of those storms ended up gusting out, too. By that time, storms had fired to my southeast, and the lead storm was already to the Mississippi River. Unfortunately I was well over an hour away! The lead storm went severe warned shortly after I began the drive down. At that point, I lost data so I had no idea what was going on.
When I approached the river, I could see that there was a storm in front of me. There was no way I could catch this one. Perhaps I could get the next one down the line. I called my buddy Rob, since I still had no data. He confirmed that I was unlikely to catch the lead storm, and may even have trouble getting to the next one in time.
After hanging up I was finally able to get data and see the strong velocity signature on that lead storm. I was too far behind. As it turned out there was a beautiful tornado in, you guessed it, Clarksdale, MS! Ugh! I ended up crossing the damage path on I-55 near Sardis, MS.
Perfect target, poor execution.
I had a chance at redemption on the 27th in the piney woods of East Texas. Not exactly ideal chase country. I left Indy just before 3am, as I expected things to get going early based on the models, and I didn’t want to be too late again.
I’ll keep this story shorter. I drove straight down to Marshall, TX and sat and waited for a while for something to pop up ahead of the line. There were tons of little junk rain showers that kept popping up, but nothing could sustain itself. I grew impatient and decided to go play around on the line, thinking I could easily go back east on I-20 if anything did develop.
Instead I got suckered in as the line gained a lot of intensity when I got on it. The leading storm that I got on had a wall cloud with a decent little beaver tail on it. I tried to keep up but couldn’t do it. It would go tornado warned and show a nice velocity couplet near Gilmer, TX. I’m not sure if it ever had a tornado or not.
I continued north all the way to I-30, then lo and behold storms got going out in front of the line, and dropped a tornado in, you guessed it, Marshall, TX! Big time blunder on my part. I would not have had to move from where I had been. However, after seeing video of it, I really didn’t miss a whole lot. It was very low contrast with not much of a condensation funnel, and quickly became wrapped in rain. Certainly nothing like what I had missed in Clarksdale, MS on the 23rd.
And thus ends the 2015 chase season. Here’s a summary of the poor decisions of the year:
- May 9, 2015 – Colorado. That morning I said, “I guarantee there will be tornadoes in Colorado today.” Instead of going and seeing some beautiful tornadoes, I stayed in SW Kansas and got nothing.
- May 16, 2015 – I did see 2 tornadoes on this day, but the 2nd I left the spot I was at where the tornado eventually passed a mile to the south. I should have had close-range footage, instead I ended up speeding down a country road, hitting a dip, going airborne, and damaging my car, forcing me to hitch a ride home.
- December 23, 2015 – see above.
- December 27, 2015 – see above.
Here’s to a much better 2016 chase season, which includes 2 full weeks off in May dedicated solely to storm chasing, and my first season living in the southern plains!