Chase Log

I left Norman shortly after 10 AM and headed east on Interstate 40 towards Little Rock. Most high resolution weather model guidance had semi-discrete supercells firing up about 50 miles southwest of Little Rock south/southwest towards El Dorado. Terrain is very unfavorable for chasing west of Interstate 530 from Little Rock to Pine Bluff. I had already made the decision not to go west of that line – even if it meant missing out on the storm of the day. My plan was to head to Pine Bluff, AR and let the storms come to me. I anticipated storms would develop west of I-530 by 4-5 PM. Those storms would move east and mature as they approached I-530 by 5-6 PM. Terrain just east of I-530 and east of the Arkansas River becomes farmland and much more favorable for chasing. I arrived in Pine Bluff just after 3:30 PM and met up with several other chasers at a Taco Bell in town. By 4 PM storms were initiating around 50 miles to our west and were located in very unfavorable chase terrain with tall trees. The Arkansas River runs from the east side of Little Rock to the east side of Pine Bluff. There are only two crossings across the River – one in Little Rock and the second in Pine Bluff. Those crossings would play an important role in my upcoming chase decisions. It became apparent that my target storm would move along and just south of Interstate 30 near Little Rock. I had to decide if I wanted to stay and intercept the storm on I-530 just south of LIT or try and get east of the river. Luckily I realized that river crossing issue well in advance. I decided to punch north from Pine Bluff to Little Rock (about 30 miles) and get east of the river and head southeast towards England, AR. It was amazing how quickly the terrain changed from tall trees to flat farmland in the Delta. The storm of interest was about 10 miles west of Highway 136 by the time I positioned myself due east of the storm. My view to the west consisted of a well-organized supercell with a very low wall cloud. Trees on the horizon prevented a view of ground-level. Around this time the NWS Little Rock issued a tornado warning for the storm. It had a history of producing large hail for over an hour but waited until it got near the Arkansas River to organize in the low-levels. As the storm got a bit closer a wicked inflow tail formed on the north side of the circulation. The rear-flank downdraft (rfd) came around and cut off the view of part of the circulation. Based on how fast the inflow tail was moving into the circulation I wouldn’t be shocked if there was a rain-wrapped tornado. Alas its either trees or the darn rain that end up blocking the view. Cloud to ground lighting increased big time and started pelting within close distance. That lighting barrage ended up being intense for about five minutes. All that lightning reminded me of a storm on May 20, 2013 that was producing a tornado at the time of the lightning barrage. The old circulation a few miles to my west started occluding as a new circulation started developing right over Highway 136 and my position. I relocated south by a few miles once rain started falling at my location. Radar data indicates the new circulation tightened up just east of the highway. By the time I got a view looking north the circulation had already become obscured by rain from my angle. My east road ended up being flooded so I had to backtrack west a few miles and go through England, AR. By the time I got east of town on the main highway the storm was 10 miles to my northeast and moving away. I probably could have caught up to it but any tornado was heavily rain-wrapped. A new storm was firing to my southwest and it was only 30 minutes before sunset. I had no interest in chasing fast-moving tornadic storms in Arkansas after dark. I set up shop about five miles east of England with a good view to the west/southwest. The new storm produced a localized, but intense area of rotation. I failed to notice it at the time but as the circulation started to occlude the rotation intensified. A funnel formed and made it nearly 75% of the way to the ground. I would not be surprised if there was a ground circulation but I observed no ground debris or condensation. The lowering sun angle combined with flooded fields helped illuminate the funnel a bright white. The funnel lasted about two minutes before the circulation completely occluded. A new wall cloud formed further north (towards my position) on Highway 165. The wall cloud had plenty of rising motion but little in the way of horizontal rotation. It persisted ten minutes before moving northeast and occluding. From that point the setting sun and relatively disorganized look of the storm meant I wouldn’t follow the storm. It would go on to become tornadic later that evening towards the Mississippi River. I watched the storm move away as residual sunlight disappeared while editing a quick video package. Luckily I made it through Little Rock between rounds of severe storms. Skies cleared out by the time I got into western Arkansas so I was treated to a pretty drive back to Norman. I arrived home just after 1 AM with 837 miles on the trip log.