The title above is the motto for today’s chase. Up until this morning all the model runs I had checked showed a slowing cold front sagging south of the VA/NC state line early in the day. The timing left little room for convection north of the border. Then I woke this morning to this:
After alternately chuckling and groaning (obviously I hadn’t planned to chase today!) I readied the chase gear and checked the latest model runs. Sure enough the front’s southern progress had been slowed so I headed out to chase before noon.
Given that surface observations indicated the boundary to be already south of Lynchburg I motored south on US Route 220 to the Wirtz area where I set up shop to await the action.While sitting there I noticed this juxtaposition of cloud movement:
The top photo looks due west and shows clouds moving south to north. The bottom photo looks due east and shows clouds moving north to south. Thus I was sitting literally under the edge of the frontal boundary itself.
Storms fired along the Blue Ridge and rolled northward so when the rain neared I relocated a few miles north as well, stopping in Burnt Chimney to watch for a bit. Seeing nothing of note and with a few minutes to spare I decided to head south to Rocky Mount and grab a quick lunch. From there I pushed east on VA Rte 40 and dove north on Webster Road, scrambling around to find a vantage point that wasn’t someone’s driveway.
I settled for a commercial parking lot that had a limited sightline. I really wanted a place to check out what THIS radar view actually looked like.
Finally frustrated enough I conducted a rolling reconnaissance and promptly ignored my rule about not pulling into driveways when I saw this:
Here’s another look as the rain engulfed Rocky Mount.
When the precipitation got too close I pushed east on Rte 40. Stopping just east of Glade Hill I watched as the shelf cloud developed greenage, suggesting a very tall updraft behind it.
The shelf kept moving east and I retreated ahead of it, stopping several times before turning south at Penhook. Discrete cells were firing along the southern edge of the line and I wanted to intercept a few of them. I maneuvered my way along rural roads to Callands where I turned southwest on VA Route 57. When that route took me back into the rain I worked my way east to VA Route 41 and wound up catching a glimpse of a wall cloud just before it became rain-wrapped.
Wall cloud is the rain free base to the right of the growing rain shaft
This was the pattern to be for the remainder of the chase as cells would fire and almost immediately become rain-wrapped. I sat through one storm just north of Danville to try to gain position on the next one but the rain filled in quickly. Thus even though I saw this circulation on radar just to my southwest I never found a place where I could see any features.
I wandered along rural routes southward toward the US Route 58 corridor not seeing much of anything other than rain. When I finally got there I saw that one storm – probably the one with the circulation that I missed seeing – was now tornado warned but was already over the town of Halifax. I did a quick intercept vector and realized that I was at least an hour from catching up to the storm given available road directions and the storm speed. Given the copious amount of rain involved I wasn’t convinced I would see anything anyway so I punted.
There were, however, more cells going up over North Carolina and moving northeast so I drove south to the Semora NC area to check them out. After dithering about a bit I witnessed a wall cloud under a developing storm.
When I followed this feature to another vantage point only 5 minutes away the rain had completed filled in around the wall cloud, rendering it all but invisible. Also I noticed on the NWS Raleigh radar velocity view that the cold front was already south of this storm and moving further south into North Carolina. At that point I made the command decision to pull off the chase given the trajectories plus the very wet atmospheric environment.
Pretty busy chase for a day that I thought would be a quiet one at home!