A one day chase to Northwest Mississippi ends up disappointing in the tornado department. Leaving Illinois around 2:30AM for Cory and Ethan; with Jesse and Kholby already in the target area staying overnight in Sikeston, Missouri. Arrived in Mississippi by mid day to await storm imitation as conditions looked primed for strong tornadoes. Storms indeed developed, however struggled to maintain intensity due to a caveat of factors. We observed one severe warned supercell south of Memphis, TN that failed to organize and called the chase at dark after encountering flash flooding in Southern Tennessee.
Date: February 23, 2019
Miles Driven: 1,221
Chase Partners: Ethan Schisler, Cory Marshall, Kholby Martin, Jesse Risley
Photogenic Tornadoes: 0
Largest Hail: None
Top Wind: None
States Chased In: Mississippi and Tennessee
The anticipation is running high for the first chase of the 2019 season and it would kick off early this year, the last weekend in February. On Saturday Febraury 23rd, a strong storm system would pass through the Central US producing a variety of severe weather conditions ranging from a blizzard in the Plains to tornadoes in the Deep South. Kholby, Jesse, Cory, and Ethan would tag team for this chase event in the Deep South as our first chase of the 2019 season. Kholby and Jesse left the night prior, getting a hotel in Sikeston, Missouri in anticipation of the next day’s prospects. Ethan and Cory would leave Galesburg, IL around 2:30AM arriving in the target area around mid-day. We made great time and arrived near Batesville, MS with temperatures in the 70s and dew points running in the upper 60s to near 70, nearly unprecedented moisture for this far north in February.
The Storm Prediction Center went with a moderate risk for the day’s severe weather threat, highlighting tornadoes as the main concern.
They were expecting tornadic supercells to fire off in the warm sector along a cold front/dry line feature in the Mississippi Delta by early to mid afternoon. The anticipation was that these storms would intensify given the ~2500 j/kg of CAPE in place and ~500+ SRH, and produce strong tornadoes. We staged up near Batesville, Mississippi where we ate at a local Wendys and played the waiting game; getting our equipment charged up and ready for the chase. Winds were cranking out of the south in excess of 25-30 mph at times bringing low level moisture northward out of the Gulf of Mexico. Kholby Martin had a Kestrel anemometer with him where he measured a dew point temperature of 68 degrees at our location with a temperature in the lower 70’s.
Cloud bases would be extremely low for this chase, in addition to the terrain, would make for a difficult chase. By noon, a mesoscale discussion would be issued highlighting the potential for a tornado watch including strong tornadoes:
Shortly after this discussion was issued, a tornado watch would be put into place with a high risk of tornadoes including strong, long tracked tornadoes.
Storms started to develop off to our west and we headed northwest to get a better look. We stopped south of Memphis, TN as a supercell off to the west of the river was looking promising as it approached a warm front to the north. Flooding was a serious concern in this area as we awaited our supercell off to the west:
Due to river crossings being sparse in this region, our first supercell tracked northwest of our positioned into the Memphis metro area where we would follow it. It would pass north of the warm front, failing to produce a tornado or really any severe weather.
The next storm in the line to the south would be our last play of the day. We dropped south and eventually got a view of the base, which was very unimpressive. A feature would pop up to our north that resembled a funnel cloud, however it was too difficult to tell whether it was or just scud. Due to the low cloud bases, the probability is that it was a scud feature under the base of this storm
We followed this storm northeastward, eventually letting it go in Tennessee where severe flooding cut off our pathway.
We had to end the chase there and we would head into Memphis for fuel and prepare for the long 7 hour drive home. This overall was a disappointing chase for us; the setup really didn’t verify overall. There were a few tornadoes further east including a damaging tornado near Columbus, MS; however these were mostly rain-wrapped. It was a little irritating that our target area was too far west, as the pre-frontal storms ended up being the main play for the day. This will be a lessen to take with us on the next chase down south!
SPC Storm Reports: