#vawx The 2021 Mid-Atlantic ChaserCon

With the global pandemic having forced a virtual meeting for 2020 we’re proceeding with plans for an in-person get-together for 2021. We’re on the schedule at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond for Saturday November 6th. There are still many details to be worked out but at least we have a time and location nailed down.

We’ll all still be wearing masks by that point (our rental contract specifically stipulates that) so keep that in mind. And given the now widely accepted tendency for virtual meetings we may even include a virtual presentation by a remote speaker. But most of all we want to see each other face-to-face again, swap chasing stories, and learn more about severe weather and chasing especially here in the Mid-Atlantic.

Some may wonder why we don’t include tropical systems on the agenda. One main reason is that we want to focus on severe local storms both for chasing interests and public awareness. Hurricanes and tropical storms receive enough advance media attention to keep the average person informed but many Mid-Atlantic residents don’t realize how many severe local storms erupt in their backyards. Having said that, we don’t totally ignore tropical setups, especially given their tendency to provide the parameters for low-topped supercells and tornadoes (like this one from the remnants of Ivan in 2004):

So circle Saturday November 6th on your calendars and stay tuned to the Mid-Atlantic ChaserCon FB page and the Twitter account (@Mchasercon). Tickets will go on sale late this summer (Augustish?).

#vawx 2020 Virginia storm chase photo countdown: #1!!!

Today we’ve made it to #1 on my personal list of best photos taken on a storm chase here in Virginia (I didn’t chase anywhere else this year!). This one was snapped on April 8th during one of the earliest 2020 chases. April and May were both sparse for chasing this year mainly due to chilly and very wet conditions which weren’t conducive for storms in my chase area.

The “winning” image was from a vantage point which is the same as that from which photo #5 on the countdown was taken. It’s overlooking an open field near the hamlet of Sontag in Franklin county. A severe thunderstorm watch was in effect for an area along and west of an outflow boundary left behind by an overnight MCS (mesoscale convective system). A supercell riding along that boundary had passed across the Blacksburg area with a tornado warning before the updraft split over the I-81 corridor. I first intercepted the right split, witnessing a vigorous shelf cloud before waving goodbye to that storm as it passed over a ridge line to my east. (This was the furthest away from home I’d been in almost a month during the beginning of the pandemic so I’d voluntarily restricted my range.)

The next storm was already crossing the Blue Ridge mountains with what appeared to be another shelf cloud ahead of it.

However as I faced this storm the surface wind was at my back, indicating inflow and thus some storm organization. The radar velocity view showed a small area of convergence to the west so my observation was correct, but storm rotation wasn’t clear either visually or via time-lapses. Either way the view was captivating.

On to 2021 chasing!

#vawx 2020 Virginia storm chase photo countdown: #2

August started with a plethora of chasing with at least 3 significant chases during the first week. Photo #2 of the year came on August 5th. Barely under a Marginal Risk I decided to stay close to home and finally ventured out when a severe-warned complex approached from the southwest. During a couple of local stops I watched, videoed, and photographed the storm which was pushing out a nice shelf cloud ahead of it.

When the precipitation neared I leap-frogged northwest to the Daleville vicinity and watched as the shelf crossed the ridge to my south. I took a number of photos from this location but this was my favorite and is therefore #2 on the list:

I conducted a “static core punch” at this location and was rewarded with not only a free car wash but also an incredible display of CGs. After everything moved north of me this was the scene at sunset:

#vawx 2020 Virginia storm chase photo countdown: #3

On July 10th we had family in for a couple of days. My son, grandson, and I made a command decision after dinner that evening to head out locally to check out some convective action. We rolled north on U.S. Route 11 through Troutville and came upon this scene at the rear of a storm:

This was literally the brightest double rainbow I’ve ever seen. Given the orientation of the lowering sun and the precipitation it was actually a full semicircle but I couldn’t capture it all in one photo. As the storm moved away the rainbow filtered through a hail shaft, providing this followup sight:

Pretty awesome!

#vawx 2020 Virginia storm chase photo countdown: #4

One of my favorite storms of 2020 occurred on August 1st. I wasn’t sure I’d chase that day as we had our two oldest grandsons at home for “grandparents’ camp”. But when a likely cell rumbled across the Roanoke valley my oldest grandson and I jumped in the chasemobile and headed out to a local vantage point to check it out. That storm began to look very interesting so we did an unplanned end run around its north side, driving east on U.S. Route 460 and then dropping south at Bedford on VA Route 122.

On the other side of the convection we almost immediately spied a large wall cloud underneath the base. After scrambling around a bit we found a spot just off Rte 122 from which to observe the business end of the storm, which now exhibited a hook echo on radar. We had this view of that obviously rotating feature coming directly toward us:

#4 on the 2020 storm photo countdown

This was my grandson’s first chase as my co-pilot and he was enthralled with the action, but we cut short the chase after a bit since we didn’t want to leave the rest of the family for too long. As it was we were gone for 3+ hours instead of the 15-20 minutes I’d originally envisioned. That explains why I then missed the tornado later that evening which touched down a few miles from the house…I didn’t feel that another venture out to check out a storm was warranted.

#vawx 2020 Virginia storm chase photo countdown: #5

Today’s featured photo is from June 23rd during a chase in which I did a literal double take after glimpsing a true radar hook echo on a storm. I was motoring south on U.S. Route 220 in the Rocky Mount vicinity. There was a storm west of the highway near Ferrum, but I was focused on reaching the Martinsville area. The convective allowing models hinted at some robust action there during late afternoon.

However the storm near Ferrum abruptly developed said hook echo so I quickly dove off Rte 220 to locate a spot from which to observe. I watched a rotating wall cloud approach and then dissipate somewhat before retreating a couple miles east to another vantage point near Sontag. This was my view as the storm re-intensified with another rotating wall cloud less than a mile away from me.

I never saw anything resembling a funnel, nor did NWS issue any kind of warning on this cell. It was visually captivating, however.

#vawx 2020 Virginia storm chase photo countdown

Merry Christmas!! Today’s photo – #6 for the year’s countdown – is again from the Blue Ridge Airport vicinity in Henry county. On July 7th an upper level low with the potential to become a tropical system crossed Georgia and the Carolinas. An outer band or two looked to just graze the southern counties of Virginia so I targeted the U.S. Route 58 corridor.

This non-severe storm approached from the southeast with some nice structure and enough CGs to keep me close to the chasemobile.

Verifying per radar that this storm didn’t contain any large hail I was content to perform a “static core punch” and let it wash over me.