Tuesday, May 4, 1999
Chase accounts, data, maps, and photographs

Chase Accounts

J.W. King -- The Storm Prediction Center really played up the possibility of a repeat of the OKC situation in Arkansas on the fourth, and I excitedly awaited the arrival of storms. Cooler temperatures and cloudy skies during the day kept a bit of a lid on the situation, though, and the only severe weather before late afternoon appeared as local thunderstorms in Central AR in the AM and outriders of the night storms that followed the OKC events, which spawned a Tornado Warning in Fayetteville around 2:30 PM. I had already decided on Southwest AR based on the Day One Convective Outlook (thanks, StormTrack) and the midday development on Northeast Texas. Historically, the I-30 corridor from Hope to Little Rock has produced some of the state's most spectacular tornadoes, and a large, well-organised cell was pushing Northeast of Texarkana when I left Little Rock at 4:15 PM. I was more than a little pissed off that the servers were down on Intellicast Radars, and TWC was my only reference. I figured to call in to computer bases in Texas and South Carolina for assistance when the time came.           At 5:15, a Tornado Warning was issued for Garland County, with a radar-indicated tornado above Bismarck, slated to be in Jessieville by 5:45. This system was visible to the north, but the great speed of the storm (said to be moving at 50 mph) and the fact that Hot Springs lay between me and the projected path caused me to choose a perpendicular path to the rear of the storm, as other cells were following. A call to Texas proved that all Intellicast servers were down, and I would have to rely on NOAA radio and local emergency services, which are notoriously late with storm reports. I let my eyes be my guide as I turned towards Bismarck on State Route 84.           Finding a perpendicular route to the storms is difficult down here, as the roads run in a decidedly SW to NE direction and the rivers and hills run NW to SE. No one in Bismarck had seen the twister, and I took some film of the receding storm, deciding that I would have to move much faster to intercept anything today. As I filmed, a cell began to form to the SW, and slowly built in my direction. Realizing that it was forming over the Ouachita River bottoms, I turned around and headed back East on 84, intending to intercept at Malvern. No sooner had I stopped in downtown Malvern when a radar indicated tornado was spotted nine miles east of downtown Malvern, due to hit Tull, Ico, and finally, East End south of Little Rock. As I raced up 67, I knew I was too late, as the storm was again outpacing me at 55 MPH. I had to make a decision; tail-end this one or get into position for another, if I was lucky enough to be provided with one. East on 270, I hit Sheridan at 7:15 and rode a smaller cell's wall clouds all the way to Little Rock. They would form, dip down, and disintegrate around me, and, though I was travelling at 50+MPH, the clouds outpaced me easily. By the time I made it back to Little Rock at 7:45, I knew there would be no more action, what with the storm angrily receding Northeast and the sun dimly setting behind the Ouachitas to the west. Damn. Too little, too late. These were some of the fastest storms I've ever tracked, and I hope to be better prepared next time.

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Radar data provided courtesy of Weathertap, Inc.