Typically chasing tropical remnants is a welcome break from the shelf clouds and slow-moving cells of late summer. When the post-landfall forecast track of Ida’s center fell west of much of Virginia I had visions of a decent chase, all the more so when the models indicated outer bands passing through the region Wednesday afternoon.
However, Mother Nature weighed in with a couple of curve balls, speeding up the timing of things. Tuesday evening brought rotating cells through the area, with tornado warnings (and a couple of confirmed tornadoes). One storm rolled through Blacksburg and the campus of Virginia Tech just after dinner. For several reasons – one being unprepared – I didn’t chase these cells:
Another tornado warning was issued on a cell just east of Roanoke a while later. Since I don’t chase after dark this one also went unchased:
We were under a Tornado Watch through 3:00 a.m. Wednesday so I can’t say I slept well, keeping one ear tuned to any alerts blaring from my weather radio. I even set my alarm earlier than usual on Wednesday since the numerical models insisted that morning convection with rotation was likely. Through somewhat bleary eyes I peered at satellite images, surface maps, and CAMs to gain some perspective on what might actually transpire Wednesday.
What I saw wasn’t exactly encouraging. The bulk of Ida’s shear was forecast to be well north and east of my usual chase area, but the cold front trailing behind the center promised to fire some “storms” (a euphemism which truly didn’t apply to much of the action) later in the afternoon. Thus I settled in for a wait of several hours…but Nature again waved a red flag in front of me. Right at noon a soggy convective line with an interesting velocity signature plowed across the Roanoke valley:
Telling my wife that I was heading to a local vantage point for a quick look I jumped in the chasemobile and proceeded to not return until almost 7:00 p.m. Said action looked interesting visually and hinted at some rotation:
When I finally checked the time-lapse rotation was indeed evident:
Given that the eastern edge of this activity was headed toward Bedford I abandoned my plans for a quick local peek and rolled in eastward via U.S. Route 460. Seeing nothing there but steady rain and low overcast I dropped south via VA Route 43 and pushed over to Pittsylvania county at Altavista. There I sped south on U.S. Route 29 to Gretna, where I paused to reevaluate my options. A mildly interesting cell – storm #2 – was aiming at Brookneal so I drove east on VA Route 40 to find a vantage point from which to observe.
This was the best view I could get of the rear of this storm amid the dripping rain and high dew points as it moved away from me:
Underwhelmed at what I’d seen to this point I resolved to head south to the Danville area to await the aforementioned cold front convection. Instead of pushing back west to Rte 29 I instead rolled south via rural roads. I came across this interesting sight a few miles east of the Dry Fork area in Pittsylvania county:
Storm #3 didn’t look impressive at all on radar but it certainly caught my attention. However, as I stopped and observed it became obvious that this view was due to my perspective of a ragged base as it drifted directly toward me. There was no rotation nor any lowering despite what my “Spidey-chaser sense” had first told me.
Sighing in frustration I continued on to Danville, hopping onto the Rte 29 expressway and scooting around to the North Carolina Visitor’s Center just south of the state line. I had thoughts of intercepting some action which was dropping south into North Carolina but the vectors had the business end of things heading for very difficult chase terrain. So I paused to gather my thoughts and consider options.
Convection was firing to the west, apparently from the approach of the cold front. This was the radar view of a cell – storm #4 – which I decided to intercept:
It, too, had a faint rotation signature so I hopped back on the expressway and zoomed around the west side of Danville for a quick peek.
Frustrated by the ever-present tree line and intrigued by what looked like an inflow feature to the north of the storm, I cast around for another viewpoint. Finally settling alongside an open field near the hamlet of Vandola I had this limited view of the base:
I could see bits of scud forming underneath the left side with continued hints of an inflow feature on the right, but I never got a clearer view. When this cell began weakening both visually and on radar I abandoned it and motored west on U.S. Route 58 toward more convection nearing Martinsville.
This was the radar view at 5:00 p.m.:
Again, there was nothing impressive but this was my last chance for an intercept. Thus I rolled down a few rural roads in an attempt to find a clear view before settling for this vantage point of storm #5 near Axton that I’d used on an earlier 2021 chase:
And that was it, with nothing exciting in view or likely to occur. I called off the chase at this point to head back to the barn, arriving as previously mentioned at 7:00 p.m. after two hurried fast food meals on the road. It was another stake in the heart of a personally disappointing 2021 chase season.