On Tuesday May 4th the SPC had my chase area under a Marginal Risk. An overnight MCS traversing Tennessee and Kentucky had me worried about its effects on the potential storm setup.
It did affect things but didn’t quash the day’s convection. Instead, a new complex of storms blew up just southwest of Roanoke and steamrolled northeast. This was the radar view about the time I headed down the driveway. Note that a severe TS warning had been issued ahead of the complex.
Given the trajectory of the storms I chose to motor eastward on U.S. Route 460, stopping in Montvale for my first peek at things. I switched on the livestream here and kept an eye on radar.
When discrete cells kept forming ahead of the main complex I decided to retreat east along Rte 460 to stay ahead of the rain. I wound up rolling to Bedford and dropping south on VA Route 122 to a favorite vantage point. The first thing I noticed was a pronounced rain-free base over the Peaks of Otter to my northwest, with interesting lowerings occurring during the next several minutes.
But the main attention-grabber was a developing shelf cloud southwest of me, the outgrowth of the storm complex which had blasted the Roanoke valley with high winds. This was the last image I snapped of that feature before jumping back into the chasemobile to clamber out of its way.
I knew I was cutting it close, especially given the surprising amount of traffic on Rte 122 as I egressed northward. This livestream image capture is from that somewhat nail-biting journey back to Bedford:
Before reaching the Rte 460 on-ramp to motor eastward the very strong winds hit. I had to swerve to miss the top end of a large tree branch that came down on the side of the roadway just as I drove by. Finally on 460 I was able to gradually pull ahead of the outflow. Given the amazing coloration and features I glimpsed while escaping to the east I turned onto a side road for a very short stop to snap a photo of the southern end of the line:
Given the velocity vector of this complex I made a snap decision – typical during a solo chase when one is faced with doing everything – to continue toward Lynchburg. On the outskirts of the city I ducked south on back roads, stopping briefly for this photo:
Emerging onto U.S. Route 29 south of the airport I turned east again and wound up at my last location a few miles west of Rustburg. The southern end of the line had intensified by this time and was severe-warned for high winds:
I conducted a “static core punch” at this location, allowing the brief burst of strong winds, rain, and a few small hailstones (which I heard but never saw) to wash over me. After the leading edge passed by I had this nice view from inside the “whale’s mouth”:
After conditions had calmed a bit I turned toward home. But having witnessed the power of the outflow winds I decided that a southern route was in order just in case there was damage on Rte 460 (there was). So I dropped south on Rte 29 to Altavista and turned west from there on dry roads with no evidence a storm had passed by.
All in all it was a much more enjoyable time than Monday’s (5/3) bust. But these storm complexes and shelf clouds aren’t really the kind of chasing I look forward to, mainly because I’m the one being chased!