#vawx Mixed success for the first 2018 chase

The good news is that today proved all the chase gear worked and the live stream…streamed. Beyond that we didn’t see much convective action.

Based on short range models we initially targeted Patrick county VA, arriving at our chosen location near 5:00 pm. As we stretched our legs we could see the tops of storms over the mountains to the west that we matched to a line of storms evident on radar north of I-81. As it turned out the anchor cell in that line briefly went severe over West Virginia and exhibited a nice inflow notch near the I-77 interchange where several Hokie Stormchasers intercepted it.

Given the trajectory of this activity we reversed directions and headed back north toward Rocky Mount. We diverted west off Rte 220 toward Ferrum in hopes of catching a glimpse of these storms before dark. We finally find a rural spot from which we had this marginal view of the now weakening system to the west:Fading storm from near Ferrum

I switched on the live stream at this location and verified that it was working. Then using my new monopod to steady my camera I zoomed into the ridge line above the farm and caught this cool silhouette view:

tree silhouette

Beyond this we didn’t see anything of note. My choice to remain east of the Blue Ridge still stands as I don’t like the road choices west of there even though it meant missing the storm of the day. Still, this was the first chase of 2018!


#vawx Regardless of boom or bust today kicks off the 2018 Virginia chase season


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I’ve made definite plans to chase today and the SPC agrees:VA_swody1

The Slight Risk area is for damaging winds and hail vs. a tornado risk but who’s counting at this point in March? The short term model solutions are split regarding timing, with the HRRR and WRF-ARW the most optimistic for convection to cross the crest of the Blue Ridge before nightfall. All of them point to storms with a decent amount of updraft helicity either this afternoon or this evening.

I’d label today a medium risk for either a bust or for seeing a decent storm. Either way it’s a good chance to shake off the SDS dust and check out the chase gear. Let the 2018 chase season begin!!

#vawx St. Patrick’s Day may bring the first Virginia chase of 2018


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Tomorrow – Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day – I may just succumb to SDS (supercell deprivation syndrome) and head out on a late day chase. Medium range model forecasts have been hinting at shear, instability, and moisture sufficient for a few severe storms in southwestern VA. Then today I checked several WRF models and they’re all in fairly good agreement. And then I peeked at the SPC Day 2 convective outlook:VA_swody2

It’s certainly not a ballistic forecast and the kicker is that I only target areas east of the Blue Ridge mountains mainly due to road networks and maneuvering. Right now I’m considering somewhere west of Martinsville VA with a chance of dropping into North Carolina. This all hinges on what tomorrow morning’s model review brings as right now convection looks to cross the Blue Ridge very late, perhaps near dark.

It may be a real chase or it may just provide a decent shakedown of this year’s chase gear. Either way SDS is to blame for me jumping on this!


#vawx SDS is increasing as the winter pattern holds on


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Late winter / early spring SDS is ramping up big time. I usually hold out hope for at least one March chase but the current setup seems to keep winter knocking on the door. I don’t see much in the long range pattern that will allow Gulf moisture and instability to creep back into the Mid-Atlantic.

This March 29 2003 storm provided a bit of tornado warning excitement in the Fredericksburg area:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Meanwhile we’re still pursuing a venue for this fall’s Mid-Atlantic ChaserCon in the Richmond area. The options are shaking out and hopefully we’ll have the specific venue locked in very soon. Stay tuned!

#vawx Faint convective hopes today

It’s grasping at straws but there could be some convective showers – but not likely thunderstorms – today across the Virginia Piedmont. The HRRR and the RAP have both been hinting at a line forming east of the Blue Ridge and steaming quickly eastward. Here’s the HRRR depiction at 19z:HRRRMA_prec_radar_003

And with a nod to current conditions here’s an excerpt from the 17Z run on the SPC mesoscale analysis page showing some actual SBCAPE:Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 1.03.34 PM

This makes sense given sunshine ahead of a reinforcing front/trough that will cross the state this afternoon.

Can anyone say “graupel”?

#vawx A Virginia Hailbow ended the 2017 chase season

Today is the last of the “Other” blogposts – i.e. “The Attempt to Reduce SDS” –  for this winter. Meteorological spring begins in two days on the 1st of March and the third month of the year has marked the beginning of my chasing here in Virginia during many past seasons. Hope springs eternal!

Thus it’s somewhat befitting that the last photo in this series is from the last chase of 2017. September 20th provided basically a local spotting opportunity with instability but no cap and almost non-existent shear. That meant an afternoon of “whack-a-mole” updrafts which weren’t worth dashing from place to place to watch rapidly growing and then equally rapidly dissipating storms.

However I did leisurely venture out to a couple of local vantage points to watch and photograph the convective scenery. One storm just north of my location received a severe warning for hail and strong winds during its outflow (weakening) phase and I captured this shot in the late afternoon sunshine:Sept 20 2017 hailbow copy 2

I haven’t done a rigorous search of my records but this may be the first “hailbow” I’ve seen in Virginia.

On to the 2018 season!!!

#vawx Two year anniversary of a winter-time Virginia tornado outbreak

Rather than post another spurious storm chase associated photo to help fend off winter-induced SDS I thought I’d deviate somewhat. Today marks the second anniversary of a powerful storm system that produced several tornadoes here in Virginia. Two of them were eventually rated as EF-3 with the first of these hitting the community of Evergreen in Appomattox county.

I chased that day and the writeups are recorded earlier on this blog site. For today here are a few photos / graphics. First, the SPC severe risk outlook:Feb 24 2016 svr wx outlook

Next, here’s my position on radar just east of downtown Danville VA as the line of warned storms approached from the west. Storm #1 was the cell that produced the Evergreen tornado. I didn’t follow any of these very far given their northeasterly trajectories at 50+ mph and a decided lack of high-speed roads heading in that direction:IMG_3866 copy

From this vantage point this was my view of the back half of storm #1. This is actually a screen grab from a video clip and by this time the wall cloud was already very evident (far right edge of the scene).Video screen shot of 24 Feb 16 storm #1

I finally had to abandon this vantage point when storm #2 took direct aim at my location and went tornado-warned. I wound up watching/dodging/chasing 5 separate cells that very busy afternoon two years ago today.

#vawx Farms and barns can help on non-severe days

Sometimes a chase on a Marginal Risk day doesn’t pay off, which was the case on July 2nd 2016. While CAPE and shear values provided enough impetus to send me down the driveway the rest of the setup didn’t follow along. Weak mid-level lapse rates and – apparently – a strong cap were both bigger suppressive factors than I’d thought.

Thus this farm photo near Wirtz VA was the most photogenic view I had that day.2Jul16 copy

Still, a day chasing storms…

#vawx An April 2016 three-fer and a roll cloud

Today’s installment on “How to Push Back Against SDS” is from April 28th 2016. On that day I intercepted three separate storms which each produced visually stunning scenes. The first and third storms were severe-warned but all three had wall clouds underneath the base at some point. This was storm #2 from a west-looking vantage point literally across the road from Chatham High School in Pittsylvania county.28 Apr 16 roll cloud

At this stage a large ground-scraping wall cloud that literally formed as I’d watched had morphed into a detached roll cloud as the parent updraft weakened. (The shrinking precipitation shaft is visible at the extreme right of this photo.) The roll cloud headed east toward me as I watched this storm continue to rotate before deciding to pull off the chase, thinking I was done for the day.

I wasn’t. Another storm blew up into a spectacular supercell that I tracked all the way to Roxboro North Carolina. But that’s another story…