May 22, 2000

Explosive Arkansas LP Supercell

Chase Account by: Scott Blair.

Chase Team: Scott Blair.
Early morning data suggested a slight chance at severe weather across areas of Western AR. Ample moisture and surface heating looked to add plenty of fuel into the atmosphere. However, a strong cap, weak surface convergence, and marginal shear for supercells appeared to make this a minimal expectation chase day. Since my target was only a couple hours away, I decided to wait in Little Rock to gather as much data as possible before I left to chase.

The situation materialized much better as the afternoon approached. A small disturbance along with -7 lifted index and better veering of winds with height indicated that the threat of supercells was real. Noting that 40kts of shear was sustained, I was a little more excited.

Finally, my NWR sounded the alert tone that a tornado watch had been issued by SPC for areas of Western AR. After the last look at data, and generally familiar of what to expect from the terrain, I made Fort Smith, AR my target area. The only real downfall of the day occurred as I walked out the door and left my video camera. Luckily, all of the other equipment was packed including plenty of film for my stills.

I departed Little Rock around 3:45pm. I blasted westbound on I-40. After passing Conway, I decided to call my chase friend, Jason Politte. I gave him a brief summary of all the recent developments. He was just getting off work and easily decided to chase westbound. We decided we would try to meet out in the field, since he was only about 40 miles behind me.

I assumed a few old outflow boundaries would be present over the target area due to some dying convection over the Eastern Ouachita Mts. By the time I reached Russellville, a large supercell was present to the east. I was a little concerned to its movement due to the NW flow aloft would possibly take it into unchaseable terrain. It was clear this was the case as I reached Ozark, AR. Luckily, the storm split as the large cell made a beeline to the south. The other result was a smaller area of convection to my northwest as I entered Fort Smith. At this point, I had a very difficult decision. I was already on I-540 in FSM. I pulled over on exit 12 on I-540 after capping a hill. The supercell to the south had a wall cloud in the distance, but was moving quickly away and into bad chase territory. The other improving option was the new explosive convective cell to my north. CG lightning was already visible and with the explosiveness, I could not pass it up. I decided to target this storm for rest of the day.

I called Jason Politte on the cell phone to alert him I changed storm targets. He agreed as he was already getting a good glimpse of the new storm. Soon after, many changes took place. The supercell now looked like a true LP, but most notably the storm exploded with a barrage of low level events.

Due to the later arrival of some chasers, many were unable to see the incredible low level events of the early stage of this LP supercell. While still on I-540, a wall cloud condensed downward. The wall was very symmetrical and showed a little rotation. The cloud was sustained for a good 15 minutes. I decided to get closer so I bumped north and took Exit 1 on I-540. I pulled off on Highway 64 and watched the spectacular sight from a mile away. The situation became more intense as the wall cloud wrapped up. At the same time, a large swirling vortice developed on the edge of the base. This cyclonically rotating area persisted for a good seven minutes. At times, it appeared there was a smooth funnel that would tighten up. It appeared that a small mid level dry air intrusion ended the swirling area and later killed the wall cloud. On the bright side, it dissipated all clouds surrounding the storm, so the cell was unobstructed.

I called Jason to give an update of all these events. He was only ten miles away and we planned to meet. I decided to take Hwy22 out of FSM, since it was the best east option and still in decent terrain. We said hello outside of FSM near Barling, AR on Hwy22. After a few photos, we continued east until we found a decent open area to pull off and watch the storm. While we were snapping away, we were greeted to a very rare sight for Arkansas. Two chase cars pulled behind us. They consisted of chasers Chris Kridler, Dave Lewison, and George Kourounis (We ran into some of them later in the season on May 30. Nice people). Shortly after, another chase car pulled in front of us. This chase car consisted of Jason Persoff and David O. Stillings (I later chased with these two later in May. It was a blast to chase with them as a team. Everyone had such an upbeat, happy attitude. See yall next year!). All chasers exchanged greetings and admired the beautiful cell to the east. A few minutes later, a decent line of chasers passed by moving east. (Let me know if you were chasing this storm so I can include your name.) This was such a shock to see a numerous amount of chasers in Arkansas. After all my chases in this state, I have never seen so many at one time. Wonderful... come back and visit again!

A small but convective flanking line dribbled off to the NW. This was due to the SEward movement of the cell. An impressive inflow tail developed and stretched out towards the south. Mid level rotation was very clear and some banding was becoming present. A backsheared anvil pulsed up and out as the main anvil spread out to the SE. The storm was too high based to produce a tornado, but had every other characteristic to make this a memorable LP supercell.

Knowing that darkness was not far away and the storm was moving into a difficult chasing area, we decided to depart the convergence and setup where we could get some shots of the supercell near sunset. We found an open field with a parking lot just east of Charleston, AR. Here, we also met Chris Sokol (a chaser we met earlier in the season on 4/15). All of us decided to shoot some storm structure and hopefully get some lightning video. The cell made a few pulses before weakening after sunset. Mid level rotation was still strong, but the anvil was being blown off. This provided some pretty pictures at sunset. The storm never produced any noticable lightning and the tornado watch was soon cancelled.

Nightfall took over and we decided to eat at Sonic. This was a classic chase day for me. It was wonderful to see the evolution of an explosive LP supercell. Total miles: 350. Perhaps the best chase day in Arkansas for the year 2000!

~ Jason Politte's May 22 Account
~ Jason Persoff's May 22 Account
~ Chris Kridler's May 22 Account
~ Amos Magliocco's May 22 Account
~ MESO's May 22 Account
~ Weathervine Team May 22 Account

Thanks to Jason Persoff for the radar image.