Chase Accounts

March 29, 2002
Pictures from this day.

Good Friday -- another holiday chase. Scott Blair and I had been watching the developing weather situation for the previous two days, and our sights were focused on northeast Arkansas.

A strong southeast-moving cold front would be pushing into the state during the afternoon hours, and instability would be in place with CAPE values of more than 2000 j/kg. We were confident that the surface convergence along the front would provide enough focus for convection to break the cap during the early afternoon hours, and with the low-level veering of winds that would be present, supercells and tornadoes seemed a definite possibility.

Fortunately, I had the day off work, and after forecasting extensively the night before and that morning, Scott and I targeted Jonesboro, Arkansas even though SPC's 0600 convective outlook had the area only under a general risk for thunderstorms.

Departing Little Rock at 10:30 a.m., Scott and I arrived in Jonesboro at around 1 p.m. and began analyzing the latest data at the local library. Everything appeared to be coming together perfectly, and we decided to set up just northwest of Jonesboro. The cap gave at 3 p.m. and towers began exploding a few miles to our west in eastern Independence County. Two cells became dominant, and both displayed nice anvils. The cells were in close proximity to each other, and we decided to intercept the southernmost cell since its inflow wouldn't be disrupted.

At 4 p.m., a severe warning was issued for our cell, and as we intercepted it near Cash, it was obvious that we were dealing with a well-organized supercell. A well-defined vault was noted along with a large wall cloud that contained rapid rotation. As the RFD punched around the meso, the wall cloud tightened and produced a large funnel that reached halfway to the ground before becoming rain wrapped and finally dissipating. Neither Scott nor I observed debris with the funnel, but I wouldn't be surprised if it touched down briefly.

Since the supercell was only under a severe warning, I called in the report to 911. Ten minutes later, a radar-indicated tornado warning was issued. We tracked the cell to Trumann, where a brief tornado was reported, but we were forced to abandon it since there was no chance of keeping up with the storm as it began its trek into Jonesboro and a horrible road network. However, the day wasn't over yet, and our attention focused on another supercell that had developed to our southwest.

At 4:30, we began our intercept of the new cell on Hwy. 49. Our only option of getting into a decent observational position was to go west and punch the core before dropping south and then east, following the storm. Entering the core near Weiner, we experienced solid golfball-size hail, which undoubtedly added a few more dents to both of our vehicles. As we dropped south and east, we began getting a good view of the updraft base. The updraft was a bit high-based, but the supercell exhibited a well-organized meso, which was beginning to be influenced by the RFD. With the RFD punching around the meso, the updraft base was eventually sculpted into the textbook "S" shape, which is often observed with strong supercells and indicates a well-balanced inflow/outflow interface. As with the previous cell, we tracked the storm to Trumann, but with this cell also moving into Jonesboro, we decided to call it a day and end the chase at 6 p.m.

Even though the Cash funnel can't be confirmed as a tornado, this day provided the first good chase of 2002 and laid some solid ground work for the rest of the season. And it was certainly nice to have such a successful day close to home.

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