Severe Weather 2011 / 2012 SeasonUSA Chase May 2011

Distance driven today: 680kms | Total so far: 12284kms

Yesterday was crazy, despite not seeing any tornadoes. Today felt more relaxed, yet I may have just encountered one.

The system which produced the tornado outbreak yesterday continued eastward, as these systems seem to do over a number of days. The target area was the border junctions of six states: Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri. I wondered whether I should bother after hearing about the nightmare chase zone that is the thick forests of Arkansas. And then there's the issue of the major Mississippi flooding lately. (The Mississippi River runs straight through the middle of this junction of states.)

With nothing better to do and what felt like the failure of yesterday, I decided to go for it.

Heading E into Arkansas and a line was just getting going with some nice pileus:

     

Then I saw my first hover-truck!

 

I thought I was finally in a great place for these storms to start, but then more updrafts were taking off further E, which didn't take long to anvil out:

 

As I continued on, I quite accidently came across some bad tornado damage. This is a town called Vilonia just N of Little Rock which has not been mentioned at all in the news, despite some houses being completely destroyed. I initially assumed this happened during tuesday's outbreak, but after a quick search, this town copped a massive wedge tornado on Apr 26 resulting in four deaths. My jaw was on the floor seeing this devastation that I did not expect.

           

I took some of these the following day on my return to Oklahoma.

           

I kept going, then stopped at Searcy for a view of an approaching storm:

   

This thing was closer than I thought as close lightning bolts started landing, as well as pea-sized hail before rain started bucketing down. I darted back to the highway and continued NE.

Near Augusta, I finally saw a storm that looked interesting. I had already been in the vicinity of one radar hook echo with no luck. Here was another, so I assume there was some rotation here:

     

As usual at the critical moment, I had to stop for fuel where I heard another tornado siren.

Back on the road and this thing was getting more twisty!

             

It started to drift off into the distance as I struggled to keep up.

     

Around Harrisburg and some of the dreaded flooding became apparent. It was quite widespread with extensive areas of particularly farmland were underwater. In one area for about 5kms there was a horrible pungent smell of something between dirty wet dog and sewerage.

 

Near Frenchman's Bayou, I eventually hit that inevitable barrier: The Mississippi River. River crossings are extremely few and far between and the closest meant heading S into the Memphis metropolis. This idea didn't really excite me, so I just sat around farewelling my storm, watching the sun set, and wondering what to do next.

         

Some lovely mammatus then sprung out with the sunset:

   

   

     

I ended up spending the night in Marion, about 35kms S near Memphis.

The next day on the hefty drive back to Oklahoma City to prepare for the next event on friday I ran into Reed Timmer again, filling up at a servo. This time with not only his new chase vehicle, Dominator 2, but the original Dominator! I think he's following me. Wants to know how I avoid tornadoes so adeptly ;)