Storm Chase 2001
February 24 Chase

Storm chase season began early for southern chasers with the first significant outbreak across the deep south on February 24.  Chasers who have been winter bound and storm deprived were able to get out a bit early and satisfy their thirsts for a glimpse at severe weather.  My chase partner was Blake Michaleski from Baton Rouge, Louisiana who is currently an atmospheric sciences student at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.  The outbreak had been well advertised for several days and was eventually classified as a "moderate risk" by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) by Saturday morning over much of Arkansas, northeast Texas, and eastern Oklahoma.

After viewing the early morning conditions, we decided to target northeast Texas which was on the southern end of the moderate risk area.  Eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas were experiencing early morning thunderstorm activity and felt it would limit daytime heating.  In addition, the mountainous and hill ridden terrain would not be favorable for chasing or viewing.

We set out from Monroe at around 9:30 AM arriving in Tyler, Texas shortly before noon.  Strong southerly winds in excess of 40 mph greeted us.  Also upon arrival, a tornado watch was issued for all of northeast Texas extending northeastward into northwest Arkansas.  The squall line that had been advancing across Texas during the overnight hours was located to our east between Dallas and Tyler.  In fact, we could see some of the towers off in the distance.  Reports were that the storms were moving northeast at 55 mph with the line advancing eastward at some 30 mph.  The battle soon began to keep ahead of the line so a jut to the north toward Mineola was in order.  The ragged, unorganized line began to overtake us so we headed on a more northeast track toward Winnsboro in northern Wood county.

Not enough eastward progress for us.  The line passed us by with some spotty rain and shifting winds.  Our only option at this point was to hit I-30 and move east - and fast.  We soon made it to Mt. Vernon, Texas where I-30 helped us to overtake the initial line just west of New Boston.  In the meantime, more towers were forming to the east, apparently due to outflow from the now dying line.  We continued east to Texarkana and on to Hope finally getting ahead of the new line.  Beginning to lose hope in Hope (all pun intended), the fight seemed useless because of the rapid movement of the storms.  Hey, it is February!

Turning south for home, we crossed into Louisiana near Haynesville in Claiborne parish.  Just as the weather radio was tuned to the Shreveport office, the alert tone sounded - TORNADO WARNING!  And it was for Claiborne parish!  The 4:54 PM Doppler indicated storm was located near Homer to our south and was moving to the northeast at 20 mph.  What luck.  We bolted east on old Highway 2 toward Summerfield hoping to intercept the northeast moving storm.  Just west of Summerfield, the rain core became visible followed shortly by the mesocyclone.  Trees were hampering our view but we could easily make out the organizing meso.

We pulled to the side of the road as the emerging wall cloud began to cross the road.  It was marked by rapidly developing scud which was rotating quickly around the wall cloud along with rapid upward motion.  As the wall cloud crossed the road in front of us, rear flank downdraft (RFD) winds soon pelted us from the southwest.  Large limbs from a dead tree were falling nearby.  The estimated wind speed was between 40 and 50 mph complete with the usual roaring sound.  Unfortunately, the wall cloud became obscured by a stand of tall pine trees which forced us to advance east a few miles to Summerfield, then northeast toward Junction City, Arkansas on Highway 9.  This gave us a better view of the system; but, it had become disorganized.

Following the storm into south Arkansas toward El Dorado, it briefly became a bit better organized as rain became wrapped around the meso with a distinct clear slot to the west.  Darkness was beginning to fall upon us; and, the storm began to die out due to new storms to the east and southeast.

Not a bad start to the new chase season.  Below are photos of the chase. 

Looking southwest at a disorganized squall line along
I-30 near Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Developing cumulonimbus towers to the southeast
from the same I-30 vantage point
Looking to the northeast along I-30 near Mt.
Pleasant, Texas.
Mesocyclone coming into view just to the west of
Summerfield, Louisiana in Claiborne parish.
Developing scud being drawn into the developing
and rotating wall cloud.
Closer view of rotating scud with vertical motion.
Rapid rotation of scud with strong vertical upward
motion as meso and wall cloud disappear behind trees.
Distant view of wall cloud as it moves rapidly
northeast away.

Most impressive photo of the trip.  Notice the rain wrapping around the wall cloud and meso to the right of the road along with the clear slot just to the left of the road.  This photo was taken on Highway 9 between Junction City, Arkansas and El Dorado, Arkansas in Union county.  The storm quickly lost most of its characteristics after this "last hurrah".

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