April 26th 2011 Arkansas Bust

Feb 26, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle!

Summary:
Failed high risk chase. Storms went up well further away than we were hoping leaving us with no choice but to chase storms in area which failed to produce as we fell behind while trying to navigate the difficult terrain.
Stats:
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: 1.25″
Wind: est 35-40mph
State that has yet to give me a tornado: AR
First bad fail: Laptop blue screen of death.
Detailed Account:
I debated for awhile about chasing this setup. I did not like where it was setting up with storms likely initiating in NE TX and moving into SW AR which is very difficult to chase in. I was hoping for something to pop in C AR and move into E AR which is very flat and chaseable. Finally the 18z NAM showed convection popping in E AR so I decided to give it a shot and then chase the next day as well. Along with Jonathan Williamson we set course for Arkansas, to stay the night in Benton, MO at Aaron Pippin’s place. It rained the entire way down with one vehicle on I-57 wiping out in the ditch, luckily not coming into our lane. The area had received extensive rainfall in recent days and I was worried what we would find once we got down there and sure enough…

We found another way, albeit a little longer and eventually made it to Aarons where we caught a good 4 to 5 hours of sleep. Awoke and checked data to see SPC had gone high risk on the day for tornadoes. A bittersweet thing as storms still looked to initiate further away towards the Texarkana area. Not good for chasing but we decided to head down that way anyways. The previous night saw some significant tornadoes tear through Arkansas with the small town of Vilonia taking a direct hit. We would pass some of the relief effort on our way to the target area.
As well as some of the damage.
There was little time to stop. Around The time we got to Little Rock a tornado watch went up for areas even further away. I was not happy about this but pressed on, if storms could still initiate in NE TX near Texarkana we might have a shot. Instead on our way down storms began popping up Southwest of Dallas. I hate when that happens, I knew those would be the good tornado producers and there was no way we could catch them as they were still a good 4 hours away. Instead storms began popping up in SW AR and we decided to just get on those since they were closer.
We made a good intercept early on, only the dense forest of this part of the state made it difficult to see, which is what I expected.
We got into the hook early on and the storm went tornado warned. It was wrapping around some half dollar size hail and through the trees we could really see it organizing. The most difficult part in tracking the storm was the fact there are almost no E/W road options other than windy un-paved backroads. All the highways went north or south, which it quite difficult for us to track the storm and eventually we would fall behind noting some impressive descending motion in the RFD.
In our pursuit the vehicle infront of us slid off the road and into a telephone pole, The pole broke in half and powerlines came crashing down in a shower of sparks. I slammed on the brakes and threw it in reverse to check on the driver. The windows were dark tinted and we could not see inside but could see smoke coming out from the interior of the car. I began to get quite nervous the car would go up in flames.
We called out to the driver and eventually the door opened. He appeared to be intoxicated, or maybe it was just the shock from the accident. We stayed with him till one of his buddies arrived and said he would help him out. This plus the backroads caused us to fall behind the storms resulting in the remainder of the chase being a failed game of catch up. The worst way to chase is when you are about 20 minutes behind a storm and it is moving away from you at over 50mph. I don’t think I have ever successfully caught up to a storm this way but we tried as long as we could since it was in the general direction towards home anyways.
Eventually I threw in the towel. We let some dying junk storms crawl over us and watched the lightning for awhile before deciding to head back east and position ourselves for the next days chase. What a let down this was. The storms in Texas did indeed produce a bunch of tornadoes, only one of them was a really good looking one, and most of the chaser video I saw from the day was subpar so I did not feel too bad about the day being a let down. Still though, it always sucks to drive all that way just to have the day not live up to expectations. I am also glad the storms in AR didn’t produce anything good after we fell behind, or the day would have stung really bad.
To make matters worse, out of nowhere my laptop blue screened and I lost my chase map. That is the first time this has ever happened and hopefully its not a sign the laptop is beginning its demise.
Radar shot early on as we were in decent position.
Conclusion:
Overall a frustrating chase that wasn’t really worth the trip. No good pictures or video came from the day, but I’ve busted way worse than this and overall the tornadoes we missed in TX weren’t all that spectacular. At least from a strategic standpoint we were in good position early on and got into some hail. I also learned a bit about the terrain in SW AR which will allow me to better plan for any future chases in which I am foolish enough to end up in the area again.
Map is not available due to laptop crashing.
SPC storm reports. There are allot of tornado reports, most of them occurring as a tragic outbreak was beginning for the next day.

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