February 5 2008 Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak

Mar 05, 2012

Monday, January 28th I mentioned in one of my BulletinCasts[a forecast thing I do on myspace.] “A storm
around Feb 4th has been catching my eye lately, and this one looks to
have good moisture return which could spell severe weather for some
part of the country”

The system slowed down
and it was on the 5th but boy what an outbreak. Tragically almost 60
people have lost their lives, every storm had excellent warnings coverage too. PEOPLE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE WEATHER!

In
summary: A very chaotic chase, my first long distance solo chase. Spent
much of the day waiting for my target zone to light up. Had convection
equal distances to my west and east. Worried my target zone
would bust and based on the advice from my nowcasters I shot
back east towards Memphis to intercept the major supercells that
tracked through the city. After that my target zone lit up and I darted
back west to intercept a tornadic supercell near Turrell, AR and then
the massive squall line behind it. Witnessed incredible damage, amazing
night time features, and several funnels. I couldn’t confirm any tornadoes,
though I knew they were there. A very exciting and intense chase, too bad
it was February and it got dark at 5pm which was the main negative
about this chase.

Basic Summary:

Confirmed
tornado sightings: 0

Funnel Sightings: 2

Other
Features noted: wall cloud, amazing back-sheared anvil.

Highest
wind measured: 52.7mph

Largest hail: Dime-penny
size.

Miles: 1,340

States covered: IL, MO, AR,
TN

Things learned:

– Bring cell phone
charger when having nowcasters

– I-40 has more semi trucks
than any other highway in the world.

– Southeast MO has very
awesome chase terrain.

– If you keep inching an hour away at a
time, you end up ALLOT farther from home than you
realize.

Detailed summary:

After
much arguing and debate about weather or not to go I finally decided I
was going, no way was I going to miss out on a potential HIGH risk day.
I left Chicago around 4am and set my destination for Charleston,
MO which is just over the southernmost point on the IL/MO border down
I-57. The drive down was extremely foggy with poor visibility. The fog
eventually cleared and I could see things again. A large cross near Effingham, IL

I crossed over the river…

…and
made it into Charleston, MO around 10am. I was pretty on schedule, so
there I chilled for a bit, ate a gas station breakfast and checked some
weather updates. After hanging out there for about an hour I decided
to duck further down into MO to a city called Kennett. I was pleased
with the lay of the land, nice and flat.

There I found what was probably the busiest McDonalds I’ll ever go to,
and waited for about 2 hours. Watches went up to my west that covered
much of Arkansas. This baited me out that direction which was my first bad decision of the day, its pretty hard not to let a watch box influence you, especially when its so early in the year.

 

I’ll spare you the details of my
frustrating attempts to find a working ATM in the entire state of Arkansas and fast forward about 3hrs to 430pm when the decision was made to blast back east towards Memphis, TN which was about to get pummeled by a series of massive
supercells. While darting over to Memphis I noticed
this:

What
a nice wall cloud…and is that…a little funnel sticking down there? I
think so, but regardless the storm looked like mush on radar and was
weakening so I stuck with the plan towards Memphis while keeping an eye
on this, sure enough after about 5 minutes everything in the picture
above completely vanished.

 

I made it to Memphis just
before dark, and boy what a mean sky this was. I was behind the
supercell as it was producing a tornado over the airport. I could see
power flashes on the ground but given my proximity I couldn’t see the
tornado. It was still to my south so my best bet was to loop around
town through the core and hopefully get east of it and then head
north but rush hour traffic [as usual] got in the way. I have a born talent for getting to these things
during the worst traffic possible it seems.

 

I’m now dodging
traffic on I-40 trying to get ahead of this thing, its moving 55mph
making it very hard to keep up with. It looks like a monster on radar!
I am now east of memphis trying to keep up with it.

You
can see my position, its the tan circle/dot. You can also see my
spotter network icon which was a bit behind due to typical software
issues. I was trying to explain to my nowcasters that my current
spotter network position was a bit behind. Hopefully this image will
help them see what I mean. Also on this scan you can see just how close
I was to the hook echo and the likely position of the tornado, I could
see power flashes, the expressway was littered with debris and the power
was out. Sirens were blaring and emergency crews were zooming
in on the shoulder.

 

I gave up on that storm due to traffic and decided to
go after some new cells to my south, towards Somerville. Well, I get
down there and sure enough, my original target area where i spent most
of the day was now exploding with even more supercells than there were
in TN while my storms crap out. Ugh. Back west I go to intercept a lone cell ahead of a
very powerful squall line.

 

I make it all the way
back to I-55 and head north, the cell is still a good ways to my SW but I could see incredible lightning from the line ahead of
me.

Well after I stopped in Jericho I
quickly got back on the Highway and headed towards Turrell, where I sat
and waited for this beast to arrive, and what a sight at
night!

Tornado sirens are blaring and yes
you can here AIM going off on my laptop, that is my nowcasters sending
me IMs as to what is going on not only around me, but reports from the
area, they did an excellent job and helped me out a great deal. Here
are some stills from this and several other
clips.

Shelf
cloud

Here is where i start to get nervous. I’m looking at my position on
radar and the storm. the hook echo is set to go right on top of
me and I start to see this.

Which I’m thinking is this…

So
where is it going? Only a moment later I see this…

Yea I’d say that is a pretty significant lower making a B-line right for me.
Maybe its something to worry about maybe its not. I’m by myself,
its night, theres a strong hook echo [much like the one I posted above]
almost on top of me coming at me at 55mph so I decided it was TIME TO
MOVE.

Given the road I was on I had 2
options:

A- The ideal situation – Go east, so the
storm passes to your west, and then north, your 100 percent safe plus
its best chance to view the tornado. This normally would work but the road
curved north about a block down making that option too dangerous.
B- Blast west and ride out the
core. The video below shows which I chose.

Now by this point I believe the line
was overtaking the cell as it appeared weaker on radar. Here I measured the 52.7mph gust. So once the core passed I went
back east a bit and watched it from behind. After a few moments I
noticed a very well defined funnel, by the time I fumbled with the
camera and got it running again it had lost its well defined
characteristic and started looking for like a lumpy
mess.

So
then I drove back to the nearest gas station, and waited for the line
to overtake me there This was a very dangerous line capable of
producing violent spinup tornadoes any moment, the entire line was
tornado warned, and no matter where I went there was no escape. It stretched from central IL all the way through
Mississippi.

I recorded the squall line overtaking
me, its pretty much the same thing as the supercell only with no hail. There were high winds but I was parked next to a wall which I’m thinking
now was a dumb idea since it probably threw off the wind measurements.
Oh well chasing is a living and learning experience! Especially when Im
at this stage in the game.

So once that was done, I
immediately hopped on the highway and headed for home. It was a very
exciting chase with allot of elements and numerous supercells. The big
limiting factor was the fact the main show was after dark, had it been light out I’m certain I would have been able to catch a glimpse, pic or
video of the tornadoes that were so close by.

Thanks
to Matt, Danny, Chad, Brian and Shelli for all your nowcasting
aid!

SPCs 1st high risk of 2008!!! The high risk is
the holy grail of chase forecasts, and only issued maybe 3-4 times a
year.

Storm reports. For February this is INSANE!

Unfortunately
this was also the deadliest outbreak in over 20 years. Very strong and
violent tornadoes hit high population areas right around rush hour. All
the storms were very well warned, and people still lost their lives,
most likely due to ignorance to what is going on around them. It can
happen anytime anywhere, doesnt matter what month, what time of the
day. If the forecast calls for the potential of severe weather you need to PAY
ATTENTION. IF YOU HEAR SIRENS, GET YOUR UN-TRAINED ASS TO THE
BASEMENT and leave the chasing/spotting to
us.

Thats chase 2 of 2008. Thanks for checking it
out.

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