April 7, 2000

Woodruff County - Central Arkansas

Severe thunderstorms looked somewhat likely across the East of Arkansas Friday afternoon. After going through a few models and surface maps, I decided to target Brinkley, AR. At 2:15pm, a severe t-storm watch was issued for Northern Arkansas. I was slightly concerned since the watch was just north of my target area. By mid afternoon, a couple of severe storms developed over Pope and Van Buren Counties. This was along the southern extent of the watch and I figured the storms would eventually backbuild.

I arrived in Brinkley around 4:30pm and was happy to see significant clearing of low level clouds to the west. The cell in Van Buren County was continuing to intensify and pushed ESE into Cleburne County. I decided to move north along Hwy49 to the town of Fair Oaks. I waited here for awhile and listened to golf ball size hail reports with this storm. I decided to bump a little west on Hwy64 and pulled off outside of McCrory, AR. Beautiful mammatus clouds dotted the sky in front of the storm! This was a wonderful treat and a nice photo opportunity. Noticing the very dark sky to the NW, I pushed a few more miles to the west.

The storm moved into White County and the NWS issued a severe t-storm warning at 6:11pm. Mammatus clouds were now more numerous in coverage and the sky continued to become darker. SPC issued another t-storm watch for Central and Southern Arkansas. I quickly headed west and arrived in Augusta, AR and took Hwy33 south. I set up about 5 miles south of Augusta. The earlier featureless dark sky began to show hints of a shelf cloud. The mammatus were now obscured by low level clouds. At 6:57pm, a severe t-storm warning was issued for Woodruff County (my location) as the storm moved SE. The shelf cloud was very well formed and began to bow out just to the north of me. CG lightning was increasing very rapidly. In the distance, the gust front was picking up dust. I jumped in the car and watched the reading off the anemometer. The outflow winds averaged in the low 50mph range but a quick gust shot up the reading to 63mph. The heavy rain and lightning was not far behind so I decided to move south out of the blinding rain. I was able to outrun the blinding rain, but another sort of blinding was not far away. A brief row of trees lined a field straight ahead of me. Behind the trees was a solid field of green grass. As I approached the area, a blast of thick dust continuously crossed the road just behind the trees in the open field. The dust was so thick, visibility was near zero. After getting through the dust, it was clear that the gust front carried the dust from another field and transplanted it along the way. I reported the severe winds into the NWS LIT.

After 12 miles moving south on Hwy33, I took Hwy38 east and then Hwy49 to I-40. I stopped for one last photo opportunity along I-40 east of Brinkley, AR. The shelf cloud was still nicely organized and the lightning activity was very frequent. The storm overtook me and I headed back to Little Rock happy to have a wonderful chase day. Total miles: 400.

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04/07/00 - WOODRUFF