My son Ryan and I looked forward to this day as the Storm Prediction Center put out the forecast of High Risk for severe storms. Our usual chase partner Brian Stertz was unable to chase with us due to work obligations, so we invited our friend Lucas Munzlinger to join us. Our target was Northeast Arkansas as the terrain was very chase-able and the area was in the Moderate to High Risk zone.
Lucas met me at my house around 5:30am and we left to pick Ryan up at his place, then headed for Northeast Arkansas. We didn't have a solid target city in mind yet, but set out for the area just west of Memphis, Tennessee in the Mississippi River Valley on the Arkansas side. Nearly the whole way down we are in rain and we also noted a large batch of rain going through northern Arkansas.
We got to the target area wondering how the area is going to recover. A call from Brian confirms that Arkansas will no longer be a major player in tornadic supercells. He told us unfortunately, the play would be in Mississippi. Another message passed along to us from Jeff Piotrowski stated the best tornadic supercells would be southeastern Mississippi into Alabama. I should have taken pictures of our faces as we got this message, especially mine. Not good news for us expecting a chase 4 hours away which now was looking to be double that. That was an area we had not planned for, never wanted to chase based on the less than adequate terrain, and quite ill prepared to chase more miles/time than we had expected. We had our conference among us three of us in the car to figure out the next step and begrudgingly decided after driving all that way to Arkansas, we might as well try chasing Mississippi.
We headed for the eastern side of Mississippi hoping that things would fire in the middle of the state in or closer to the High Risk area. We were not wanting to extend the trip even longer by going deeper into Alabama where storms were already producing tornadoes. We got gas and lunch in Pontotoc, Mississippi, then hung out for a while east of there just watching for development. We watched some convection go up.
We continued our trek south down to West Point, Mississippi watching multiple areas of storms. Heavy rain started to become very common as the storms grew. Lightning became more prevalent, but not much rotation could be found. Decided upon going back westward out of West Point toward our last hope of rotating storms. A couple of cells were on-going. As we reached the cells near Cumberland, Mississippi, we worked our way north and eventually just found a parking lot west of Van Vleet, Mississippi to sit and wait as this cell dumped it's enormous, flooding rain creating flash flood conditions. We honestly at this point were just letting the rain pass and looking at maps to find our route home as the storms over us were the last of the isolated cells. There had been no other tornado warned storm in northern or central Mississippi, so we had given up all hope.
The rain began to let up as the storm was finally moving up to the north of us. We were ready to leave until Ryan takes a last look at radar. He almost excitedly tells us that the storm now has a minor couplet and beginning to take on Supercell characteristics. Back in chase mode, but now we got to work our way to the east. Not an easy job on flooded streets. At one point we came to a dead stop as an underpass was flooded with several feet of water with one stalled out car. Ryan quickly routed us around it on higher roads and we were back on it. It took some time as we worked our way east to Amory, Mississippi where we finally reached the east side of the storm just as the rotation part of the storm crossed over the road. Now it was just a matter of getting up on the rotation part of the storm and following it.
We stopped on several occasions as the rotation would ramp up as we'd get a view. There was a lot of rising scud being pulled in as well as a lot of agitation under the storm.
The trip back home was mostly in downpours making for a white-knuckle drive home.
So we managed to save the day from being a complete bust with the last surprise storm strengthening into a supercell and producing a couple attempts including the possible short lived tornado. Unless someone else saw and recorded ground contact, the Memphis Weather Service will not conduct a survey.
Map of our Mississippi Travels
Update: I played around with the editing software to highlight the features of the cloud structure and was able to pull out what appears to be a funnel associated with the circulation we observed at the ground level.
21 Hours - 1060 Miles