Chase Accounts

January 3, 2000
Pictures from this day.

A very dynamic system forecasted to move into Arkansas on this day produced some severe weather and a few weak tornadoes. Temps were forecasted to be in the lower to upper 70's range across the state while cooler and drier air was located aloft, thus creating the instability that is needed for severe weather to take place. At 300 mb, a very strong jet was to setup over Arkansas providing over 100 knts. of speed shear over the state. Along with this, strong divergence over the state was also noted. With strong south winds at the surface progressively turning to SW in the mid to upper levels of the atmosphere, it was very possible that a few storms would begin to rotate as convection would be initiated along a boundary in the form of a dryline. Although directional shear wasn't too impressive, supercells still looked like a possiblity. The low pressure area, in which the dryline and trailing cold front was associated with, was forecasted to be entering west central Arkansas by the early morning hours and move northeast at a quick pace. The stage was being set for severe weather to take place, but what would actually take place was still several hours away. Looking at the SPC Day 2 convective outlook on Sunday showed just how serious a day this could be. A slight risk had been issued for most of the state, while a moderate was in place over extreme eastern AR., Western MS, and parts of TN. With this affirmation from the SPC, it seemed that January 3rd, a Monday, was going to be a very promising chase day. I had been in contact with one of my chase partners, Scott Blair, for a few days now about the possibilities for Monday, and everything now seemed to be coming together. The stage was being set, and it was quite evident to both of us that Mother Nature may provide quite a show. I had to take care of a few last minute details before preparing for the upcoming chase, for one preparing my new monopod setup for my car, while Scott was going to town in the forecasting department. Later that night, before I had a chance to check the new model runs, I contacted Scott to get an update as to what was beginning to shape up. He told me that everything was still coming together nicely, so I began to do some forecasting of my own. As both Scott and I continued to analyze the coming situation, we anxiously awaited the Day 1 outlook as midnight approached. We fully expected the moderate risk to be extended a bit farther to the west and closer to our target area near Beebe, AR. This expectation came true as we both stayed up past midnight in order to look at the new Day 1 outlook. The moderate had been extended as far west as Little Rock, and the SPC was expecting a few tornadoes to be produced. I went to bed anticipating the next day. After waking up at 4 a.m. on January 3rd, I noticed a tornado watch already in effect for western AR. Tornado warnings were also being issued in the northwestern part of the state. A strong squall line had developed and rotation was embedded within it. With the amount of shear in the atmosphere, most of the storms were advancing northeast at 45 m.p.h. or more. Scott and I were both suprised at the action that was already taking place, as neither of us expected things to get going this early. After reviewing a few discussions and models, I left my apartment to pick up Jennifer Ware, and we then proceeded to Scott's house. We waited at Scott's house for about an hour while waiting for the updated SPC Day 1 outlook and Experimental outlook. I don't know what was going on with SPC this day, maybe they were just busy, but they were extremely slow in issuing the outlooks for the day. Once we finally got the info., we headed out the door at 7:45 and set up in White County at the intersections of Hwys. 31 and 38 near 9 a.m. The amount of visible shear within the atmosphere was amazing. Building towers ahead of the dryline and front were being tilted quite noticeably before dying. Strong south winds were rapidly moving lower level clouds to the north, while mid level clouds were rapidly moving from SW to NE. We waited for the advancing squall line to get closer to us and looked for any good visible storm structure. The CAREN Club activated the Skywarn net soon afterwards, and they would be a nice help on this day. Scott called the meteorologist handling the situation at Channel 4 and heard that a storm in Saline county was rapidly intensifying and would be near our area shortly. I called the Skywarn net controller and asked for any info that they might be able to provide us with. Skywarn confirmed that the storm in Saline county was rapidly intensifying, and we decided that this would probably the storm we would go after. George Hoelzeman called us within this time period and told us of some of the storms that he chased near Russelville as the line moved through that area. George also saw a horseshoe vortice, so I'm sure he enjoyed getting a chance to experience that. As the storm began nearing our area, we were able to make out an anvil at 11 a.m. The storm also contained a decent flanking line at this time. The storm was just moving into southern Faulkner county at this time, and we made our move to intercept it. We drove towards Beebe and started noticeing some decent storm structure. The storm had quite a tilted updraft associated with and the anvil was beginning to backshear quite rapidly. We started getting in better position, and the NWS service was expressing concern about this storm. Skywarn was asking us to get a good look at what was going on with this one. At 11:45, we got in position to see an absolutely gorgeous shelf cloud form. George also caught up to us at this point, so we briefly got to visit with him while shooting some pics. Some of the most impressive pictures of this storm were captured at this point. After shooting some stills and video, we moved into a position to see the updraft base and noticed three brief lowerings, but they quickly fell apart. Not long after, the storm split, most likely due to the mainly unidirectional shear, and started falling apart. From this point, we decided to push east ahead of the line and wait for things to blow up in eastern Arkansas. As the line moved eastward, we noticed some nice convection building, but everything seemed to be capped in the area. After reviewing some data, we noticed that there was a strong cap over the area. This effectively ended our chase day, as we called it quits at 2:15 and headed home. For January 3rd, it ended up being quite a fun and productive chase day even without seeing a tornado. Throughout the day, Arkansas saw 4 tornadoes in the north and northeastern parts of the state, but the moderate risk failed to materialize over eastern AR, western TN, and northwestern MS.

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