On this day, a deepening triple point surface low moving out of the Texas panhandle moved into ArkLaTex region by Sunday afternoon. SPC had a moderate risk over the tri-state area and expected tornadoes. A cap was in place, but it sufficiently eroded by the afternoon hours, and this allowed a few supercells to fire over the ArkLaTex area. Since it was Easter, I was visiting my family at my grandmother's house, but I planned to leave there at 2 p.m. after eating dinner and meet up with Scott Blair in order to begin the trek towards our target area of Hope, AR. I was thinking we would need to bump southwest some in order to get the best storms, but Scott and I agreed that if we needed to do that, then it could easily be done from Hope.
I had my cell phone on in order to recieve any updates from Scott, and at 1 p.m., he called to inform me that a PDS tornado watch box had been issued for E OK and NE TX and that towering cumulus were visible on the latest satellite images. Suprising me, this system was going to begin to become active earlier than I thought. Declining on Easter dinner, at 1:15 p.m., I said my goodbyes to the family for the day and set out for Scott's house.
After arriving at Scott's, we set out for our target area shortly after 1:30. Cloud cover blanketed AR., and this had us concerned since daytime heating wouldn't be helping to destabilize the atmosphere. At this time, though, Eastern OK. and NW LA. were getting some good heating in. After driving southwest on I-30, we finally were able to tune in the Texarkana NOAA transmitter and heard of a new tornado watch box that was placed over our area and of a tornado warning issued at 3:10 p.m. for a supercell in McCurtain Co., OK. and into Sevier Co., AR. We decided to intercept this supercell and and took Hwy. 371 towards Dequeen, AR. In positioning ourselves to view this storm safely, we were going to have to punch through part of the storm's core. Trying to get to Dequeen before the main core of the storm did and driving through some dime size hail in the process, we finally made it to Hwy. 41 near 4 p.m., our south option at this point that would lead us away from the core and into a better position for viewing.
Driving south, we noticed the black sky and shelf cloud associated with our storm. Storms seemed to be blowing up everywhere at this point, and severe t-storm and tornado warnings were being issued frequently by the Shreveport office. We decided to stay after the cell that moved out of McCurtain County, OK. and punched through some more dime and nickel sized hail while positioning ourselves. Finally getting precip free, we had a decent view of the updraft base of the storm that we had been chasing. Rotation could be seen in the updraft base and quite a bit of scud was being updrafted into it. Very soon after stopping, we started getting pounded by torrential rain and small hail again, so we continued south on 41 to Crossroads, AR. and then continued east on Hwy. 234. At this time, we began experiencing intense RFD winds. Hearing of a tornado warning for Cass Co. in Texas, we debated whether to try that storm or to stick with this one. Although our storm was in bad terrain and was tough to view due to trees, we decided to stick with our storm in Little River Co., AR. Before I continue, I must commend the first class job that Scott did in navigating and watching the skies while I drove. This ended up being a difficult chase day because of the terrain, and Scott's map reading skills were a key part in getting us in position to see what we did.
At 4:30, a tornado warning was issued for our storm, and we finally began getting precip free and could make out the base of the storm once again. Soon after, we got our first glimpse of the intense wall cloud and mesocyclone that was associated with the supercell. The RFD was clearly punching in, and to the west of the meso and RFD, intense anticyclonic rotation was noted. The wall cloud had a decent structure to it and was starting to wrap up nicely. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, we were in a terrible area for chasing and trees were EVERYWHERE. We continued east on 234, catching brief glimpses of the meso and were positioning ourselves to intercept it near Wilton, AR. During our brief glimpses, a lot of scud was noticed beneath the meso and a nice inflow tail had developed on the wall. Here, we decided to take Hwy. 32 east out of Ashdown, AR. and hoped to use Millwood Lake to get a tree free view of the storm. While executing this maneuver, Scott called the NWS and reported the meso.
After losing view of the wall cloud for a brief period of time, we finally got back in a decent position after crossing from Hempstead Co. into Howard Co. We were informed by the NOAA weather radio that a possible tornado would be near Mineral Springs at 5:15, and we were headed in the right direction after reaching Hwy. 4 and heading north towards Nashville. Having the meso back in view at 5:15, it continued to look decent, and the RFD notch had become even better defined. Unfortunately, a lot of trees were obscuring our view beneath the meso, so it was tough to tell what was going on at the time.
Finally getting in a position in which we should've had a good view of our meso, we noticed that something strange was going on. The meso that we expected to be very near our location wasn't there, but instead, clearing skies and rapid cloud motion was above us. Our storm had apparently split, but a few miles to our north, a lowering came into view and began a trek across the road that we were on. Soon after it came into a view, a funnel began forming and rapidly began to form closer to the ground. While recording this on video, I was also keeping an eye on the turbulent skies above us. The funnel continued to get better defined and extended just over halfway to the ground, but neither Scott nor I could make out any debris beneath it. After observing this for over a minute, the funnel began to shrink in size. Soon the funnel seemed to dissipate, and a large piece of condensation formed behind it and rapidly rotated in front of it, obscuring the dissipating funnel from our view. It then crossed into a wooded area that would offer little in the way of viewing areas. (Note: On May 2, 2000, I was informed by the NWS in Shreveport that F1 damage was confirmed in the same area as this funnel, so it's possible we were watching a tornado. When everything's finalized, I will then see if this feature was indeed a tornado. If it was, then this will be my first Arkansas tornado.) Knowing that after a storm splits, the left moving, northern section of the storm usually moves off to die, we decided to backtrack south and pursue the right mover which usually continues on to be the stronger of the two.
There was a problem with trying to intercept this storm because we were north of the area of concern. Being north of the meso can offer a bad view and a good pounding by hail if one doesn't plan a careful intercept route. We didn't have many road options at this point, but we were treated to an eerie show while driving south towards Hope, AR. Tornado sirens were going off in the towns that we were driving through while attempting to intercept the cell, and the black skyies ahead, combined with the sirens, made for a surreal setting. Soon after, the cell seemed to begin dying, so we decided to let it go at 6:10 p.m. and head towards some intense convection beginning to fire to our south near the Louisiana/Arkansas border.
The convection was some of the best I'd seen all year long, and soon after, an anvil began to form and get push over due to the intense updraft. We began to get excited, but soon after, everything began to get linear. Because of the linear nature and after deciding that we wouldn't be able to intercept the storms before darkness set in, we decided to wait for the sun to set, and then, hopefully, we would get some good sunset shots. We weren't let down as mammatus and storm structure started giving us a fabulous show of beautiful purples, pinks, oranges, and reds. It was a picturesque end to a frustrating and tiring chase day through Arkansas' treeland.
Note: The Cass Co., TX. storms that we opted not to go after formed some significant tornadoes in Louisiana. If only we had decided to drop south and head east on I-20. Oh well, such is chasing, but at least, it's possible that we saw a tornado. I'll have to wait until everything's finalized before I determine that.