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Tornado - May 25, 2011

West Memphis, Arkansas

We catch a tornado as it bears down on the city of Memphis

TORNADO - Another high risk day. We drove from Oklahoma to eastern Arkansas where tornadoes were expected to be the major threat of the day. The first storm we intercepted was a tornado warned supercell in Beebe, Arkansas. A wall cloud approached the town as we sat and observed in a church parking lot. The town's tornado sirens went off, but no tornado touched down. We tried to keep up with the storm, but it was moving too fast.
 
We kept dropping south to catch the next storm in the line until we were eventually approaching Memphis. This storm had a great shape on radar and produced a brief tornado that went right over our heads. It was not that photogenic, but the funnel cloud was most of the way to the ground and there was small bits of debris falling from the sky. Some of our team even videotaped the spray ring where the tornado was in contact with the surface of the Mississippi flood plain. At one point, I thought the tornado was going to touch down very close to our location on I-40, then it actually looped back into the clouds. I've never seen a funnel cloud do this before.
 
We kept chasing the storm through Memphis until it got dark.

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Funnel cloud approaching our position in West Memphis, Arkansas on I-40. Small bits of debris falling down on us confirmed it was a tornado.

The funnel looped back up into the cloud base. A strange sight. The tornado did kick up a lot of water on the Mississippi flood plain.

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The storm after it crossed the Mississippi and entered Memphis, Tennessee

The Storm Prediction Center outlook from earlier in the day.

Video of the circulation touching down on the water