Thursday, February 5, 2009

Remembering The Super Tuesday Outbreak of 08

Today is the 1 year anniversary of 2008s largest and deadliest outbreak of tornadoes. It was also my 1st long distance solo chase, since none of my regular chase pals and I saw eye to eye on the setup. For awhile I thought this one had the potential to be big.

In my post on stormtrack I named Jackson, TN as the city I would target. In real life though I didnt want to go that far south, being it the middle of the work week I was trying to make this a 1 day was still February and I wanted the bulk of my days off for spring.

Long story short, I got lured down there anyways once things got going. I arrived in Memphis as tornadoes were reported moving across the airport and into the southern sections of the metro area. I-40 was pure chaos at this point. Debris scattered across the highway traffic crawling. I persued it as best I can along I-40 and noted a series of powerflashes to the north of the highway, the tornado was there, but it was dark and I couldnt see it. Radar shot showing how my spotter network icon was lagging behind my actual GPS position [a common issue i have.]I had Brian Barnes nowcasting for me on the phone and Danny Neal through AIM
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Eventually I fell behind due to so many semi trucks being in my way so I detoured south after some new cells before heading back west to catch an isolated beast ahead of the raging squall line that was located in AR. I made it to the Turrell exit and waited for the beast to come to me. Too bad it was night because the structure would have been incredible:

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Tornados were reported on the ground with the storm, and the hook region was making a B-line right for me. I could see the lowering screaming right at me but could not make out the important features...this:
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Became this after only a couple minutes:
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Needless to say I started to get nervous at this point given what had been happening all day. I could head east to safety but the road I was on curved to the north after about a block and would put me back in the path, so I darted west and chose to ride out the core and sample the hail/wind. By this time the line began to overtake the supercell and it had likely weakened.

Once it passed I could view the storm from the back side. Then in between flashes I saw a very well defined funnel. It was a pefectly shapped symettric trunk, I could not tell if it was all the way to the ground, I turned on the camera and waited for another good flash of lightning but by the time one occured all I could make out was a leftover lumpy funnel:
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I then went back east a bit to a nearby closed gas station to ride out the squall line. The entire line was tornado warned and had the chance to produce a spinup at any moment. A risky move but I had no escape. I rode out the line...and then headed for home. It was about 10pm now and I hadnt realized how far from home I actually went. I made it as far as Effingham before I couldnt hang on anymore. My 1 day chase now turned into 2. I should have just planned for 2 days and went to where I really wanted to target. Oh well.

A historic outbreak that will be remembered and studied for quite some time. About 144 tornado reports and unfortunately around 60 deaths. An event of this magnitude truly is rare for the time of year, and caught many skeptics and the public off guard...but is a sobering reminder that anything is possible when it comes to mother nature.

Jackson, TN was hit by an EF-4 that night. Luckily no fatalities occured there. The footage posted above as well as other footage from this day will be featured on the storms of 2008 dvd, which can be ordered at

09 is off to a very slow start compared to 08...but looking at the pattern ahead, things may get going after this weekend. The time is now to make sure your prepared.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Man the day is still fresh in memory! I think you did a great job out there with what you were up against - chasing in a metro is always difficult. Throw in the darkness factor and you've got one of the most challenging chasing situations imaginable. Oh, and did I mention the trees in that area and the fact that you forgot your chainsaw? Didn't think so... Do you mind if I re-blog your post with your images?