Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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Saturday, May 10, 2008 - 10:49AM

Tornado outbreaks this weekend - outside of the Plains!

By DAN ROBINSON
Editor/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Observing
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SPC severe storm risk (left) and tornado risk (right) for Saturday

Storm Observing Guide ServicesThe first true 'big' tornado event of the spring 2008 season looks to commence today and continue into tomorrow - but only a sliver of it within the traditional 'tornado alley'. The mid-Mississippi valley and southern US states instead will be under the gun, something that has been common so far this year. Today's pattern favors a significant tornado outbreak from Arkansas to the Gulf Coast, with strong upper-level winds and deep moisture at the surface. The outbreak should move into the southeast states of Georgia and Alabama on Sunday as the system moves offshore into the Atlantic.

The setup looks great and the chances of seeing tornadoes are fairly high - but I decided to sit this event out. First of all, I would have needed to make the call to go no later than yesterday afternoon, in order to make it in time. I hesitated too long to make the 15-hour drive to the AR/OK border. Second, while this may turn out to be a two-day event across the south, its wide footprint between the two days means that one would likely not be able to cover both days (with sufficient sleep in between) due to the long distances between them. I figured a probable path that I would have ended up taking would have been starting in western Arkansas along I-40 this morning, then working my way eastward through Memphis and ending up in Nashville, TN or Birmingham, AL. From there, I may have had time for 3 or 4 hours of sleep before trucking on to Georgia for Day 2, then ending up in Raleigh to round out the trip. That would end up being over 3,000 miles total - and at 400 miles per tank of gas, that would end up being a $550 fuel expense.

Now I'm an advocate of observing outside of the Great Plains, because success can be had wherever a good setup materializes. But I've only got funding to make one solo trip this year, so I have to choose wisely. While there will be chaseable tornadoes this weekend, my budget dictates a choice to wait for another setup in better territory.

The models have seemed to line up in agreement of a big east coast trough forming later next week, after another round of southern US severe weather events. So, it's looking like any trip will be at least well into the later half of the month.

Based on the current outlook, this probability table charts the chance of our trip starting on a particular date:

2008 Weather Expedition - Departure Date Probability as of May 10
May 10-2515%
May 26-June 1540%
No trip45%

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The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

I can't wait to see how it unfolds. My weather is going to be in alert mode all night long.
- Posted by Cholivan from Owensboro, KY
In my amateuer mode I say good call Dan, thinking of your chase budget, early days still yet !
- Posted by Mick from United Kingdom
So far I'm glad I stayed home - looks like a mess out there now where I would have targeted (central Arkansas). There have been a few tornadoes in there, but from the looks of radar and the storm reports so far, it is not yet the big outbreak that was expected. The storm of the day so far looks like the SE Kansas/SW Missouri supercell that has produced a series of strong tornadoes. It's still early, but only a couple of hours of daylight left out there, and no sign of things really getting going anytime soon. In fact a lot of the storms look to be weakening now.
- Posted by Dan R. from Charleston, WV

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