03 Feb Friday Flashback – December Monster

Welcome to the first in a series of “Friday Flashback” posts from past Storm Warriors Storm chases.

We’ve been asked before, when is “tornado season”?  While the answer you’d expect to hear is “spring time”, which does have the most amount of tornadoes, the truth is tornadoes can happen any time of year if the ingredients are right.  This was such an occasion.

There was still a lot of warm gulf air that December morning and with a cold front sweeping in to meet that cold air, we had a classic setup for the potential of tornadic supercells around the Mississippi River Delta regions along the river from Tennessee to Louisiana.

We had decided to setup just east of the river.  There are only a few crossings along about a 100 mile stretch and these storms would be moving at a good pace, we didn’t want to get stuck on the wrong side of the river.  We setup in Clarksdale, MS and waited.  The first storms of the day formed just north of us and became tornado warned.  Still we waited for an area just to our southwest that had the best ingredients for tornadic supercells.  This tornado literally formed to our southwest and tracked directly at us for at least 15 minutes or more.

We ran around to some houses around us to knock on doors and alert the residents of the impending tornado.  We also hit our “train” horn while re-positioning east to alert the area around us.  I distinctly remember a resident coming out on to his porch as we drove by to see what all the commotion was about, seeing the tornado, then running back inside his house to take shelter.  We came back to the same area shortly after the tornado went through and had a couple of people tell us they heard us come by and that’s what alerted them to the tornado as this was a mostly rural area, some of which did not have tornado sirens.  Our live feed was on CNN and The Weather Channel as well.

This tornado became an EF-3 and tracked more than 60 miles before lifting and setting back down an even larger monster, an EF-4 that tracked for 70+ miles.  This was easily the most intense winter tornado I’ve ever witnessed.

Don’t ever assume that tornadoes can’t happen because of what the calendar says.  Tornadoes do not follow a calendar.  Have a plan.  Know where to go.  And stay safe!

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