Saturday brought the first serious severe weather event of 2019 to the United States. Although, much of the storms failed to live up to the expectations based on the forecast.
The severe weather event was a relatively small part of a massive and remarkable storm system that is affecting the entire United States.
Assault on all Fronts
On Friday, large snow flakes fell across Tuscon Arizona, and even as far south as the Arizona/Mexico border.
A blizzard packing 70mph wind gusts and up to 10 inches of snow affected western Kansas and other parts of the plains states.
Major flooding has been ongoing in parts of the deep south, particularly parts of central Alabama and Mississippi.
On Sunday the 24th, the low pressure system is now moving across the Great Lakes. Areas of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and surrounding areas can expect up to 12 HOURS worth of 40mph winds with gusts of over 65mph possible. Power outages are likely.
Wednesday in Hattiesburg
On Wednesday, there was a 5% tornado risk issued by the SPC for a small sliver of southeastern Mississippi.
This is a lower end risk, however since it encompassed such a small area it (presumably) leaves a pretty good chance that you can see a tornado.
Many of my biggest tornadoes have come on these lower end days. The trip was only 90 minutes, so I had to bite on this regardless of what the atmosphere actually looked like.
There was not a single severe weather warning of any kind issued on Wednesday.However there was quite a bit of flash flooding in Hattiesburg, albeit short lived.
King Cake Shake
King Cake Shake in Hattiesburg!
By far the best capture of the day was this KING CAKE SHAKE that chased me down and cornered me at Ed’s Burger Joint. Ed’s is located just down the street from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
Yes, it was even better than it looks. The shake contained chunk of king cake that easily made their way up the over sized straw and sloshed around between my now decaying teeth.
Saturday – Moderate Risk!
Saturday was the long awaited and much hyped day. Everyone was expecting a tornado outbreak, although there were a couple of ingredients that seemed to be missing.
Just before midnight on Friday night, the SPC issued a 15% hatched risk for Tornadoes across much of Mississippi.
15% hatched risks are noteworthy for their boom or bust predictions. Often times, they are complete busts. More on this phenomenon at a much later time..
Tornado Watch and Developing Storms
My initial target guess on Friday was that we were would be in Indianola, Mississippi around 10:30am on Saturday.
Things shifted a little bit later. Our first stop off of the highway was located at Mississippi State Road 12 near the town of Durant.
After around 20 minutes of waiting and watching, we hopped back onto I-55 north with the intention of heading to Greenwood, MS.
As storms started to gain strength but just as quickly fall apart, we decided to aim for another cluster of developing storms further south.
Back onto I-55 south, our chosen storm was quickly looking more and more impressive.
As each mile marker passed, we were convinced that if any storm was going to drop a tornado today, this would be the one.
The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Yazoo county, and the storm was heading directly into our windshields as we traveled south-southwest on I55.
Passing the village of Vaughn, little more than a name on the map, we exited onto Mississippi Route 16 and creeped a bit northwest.
There was a slight clearing in the forest just off the exit, although it could be considered quite modest for Mississippi.
On the Shoulder of I-55
We returned to Interstate 55 northbound after just six minutes on a side road. The storm was moving quickly and this was the only way to maintain a view.
We found a acceptably a clear spot in the trees to pull well of the road and watch the sky’s actions unfold.
The field of vision certainly wasn’t great, but it was good as it gets in this part of Mississippi.
A storm falls apart on a Moderate Risk day in Mississippi.
The Tornado warned storm’s core moved over the interstate directly in front of us. As this occurred, we felt a cool breeze of wind coming at us from the gyrating clouds.
Cool outflow was coming from the storm where warm inflow should have been occurring. In addition, the radar signature looked very weak and completely disorganized now.
It was obvious this storm was not about to produce any tornado.
Nevertheless, we continued to follow it…for an entire six minutes longer.
After that, the base of the storm was well to the east and completely obscured by the treeline.
There was no real way of catching up with these storm motions, let alone the very sparse road network of Central Mississippi.
Well, Shall we Return South?
As the storm moved away, we looked around at the large number of generally uninteresting storms on radar.
The only noteworthy storm was a small but lone cell that was heading towards Jackson. The cell had a bit of a hook shape indicative of a good updraft with reasonable sheer.
However, the storm was already nearly parallel with I-55.
By the time we reached Jackson, the storm had (predictably) weakened considerably and was just to our east.
So finally we decided to chase our next target–Whataburger.
Yeah yeah, it was inevitable. It was now after 3:00pm and we had only eaten a little sandwich from Starbucks.
An Empty Return Home
After eating, I drove Sarah around downtown Jackson. I had coincenditally just been here three weeks ago for the first time myself.
We drove down Historic Farish Street just west of the center of downtown Jackson. This is a completely abandoned historic district that contained food, entertainment and nightlife….all except for the still surviving Big Apple Inn.
Strong Tornado Hits Columbus, MS
I won’t get into details on here, but one strong tornado did occur in Columbus, Mississippi late on Saturday evening.
Unfortunately, one person was killed by this tornado. The tornado was rated EF-3 and did quite a bit of heavy damage to Columbus.
This was the only noteworthy tornado of the day. Thus the predicted tornado outbreak did in fact not occur. This is just one of numerous times a 15% hatched has been a complete bust when we were chasing.
Again, we would love to figure out what the deal with this is and hopefully will someday.
That there makes three busts in a row in the state of Mississippi for me in just three weeks time.
Events may not work out as expected. This is a basic prerequisite of life.
However, the lessons and sights that come along the way will always carry forward with you.
No matter how small…