#vawx Any more 2022 convection coming this way?

Today – 9/22 – looked like the best hope for another chase this year. But as today neared the support for storms looked less and less likely as shown in this collage of SPC outlooks:

At the moment nothing else of note looks to occur before the end of September. The only uncertainty hinges on what the Atlantic tropical season produces. However, if recent years are an indication any tropically induced convection will track too far east to tempt me. Such setups tend to dump a lot of rain between me and storms, requiring a late evening / after dark drive home amid flooded roads. That’s not an attractive option.

We’ll see what happens.

#vawx Last minute joy for a Monday chase

Expectations weren’t great for today’s setup, at least in the area I was willing to chase. This was the SPC’s Day 1 outlook:

A cold front spinning out ahead of low pressure over the Great Lakes was to push across Virginia late in the day, providing lift while the associated upper level trough providing some shear.

After perusing a few models I was convinced that the best convection would happen north of I-64 in Virginia and east of the local TV DMA. Still, there were indications of something happening in my self-limited territory so I headed down the driveway just after 1:00 pm.

After pushing north of Troutville to check out a ho-hum cell west of the Blue Ridge I maneuvered eastward to U.S. Route 460, motoring into Bedford county to take stock of the situation. There were towers going up near and north of Rte 460, and I had this view of twin pileus caps to the north near the town of Bedford:

However, this convection was drifting northeast into generally tough chase territory, so I let them go. Another line to my south had my attention.

Thus I dropped south on VA Route 122 through the Smith Mountain Lake vicinity, intending to check on the southern end of this line. But by the time I reached the VA Route 40 corridor near Glade Hill this line had faded. I wound up wandering down several rural lanes I had never traversed before, enjoying new sights while waiting to see what else might fire. I was briefly tempted to head south toward Danville to intercept storms moving northeast toward the NC/VA state line, but they weren’t energetic enough to tempt me to go that far. (A couple of cells wound up severe-warned along and east of the I-85 corridor.)

Noticing more towers blossoming along the Blue Ridge I paused for a while along a rural road in eastern Franklin county. When I finally pushed in that direction I could see ragged bases and uninspiring structure, so I decided to turn for home. However, noticing a discrete cell to my south I stopped in the Wirtz vicinity for a few minutes:

Not seeing any intensification I continued to home base, convinced I was done for the day.

However, as I sat down to pen this blogpost I happened to check radar and discovered an interesting cell not far away. Grabbing my chase gear I plunged back into the chasemobile and rolled northward on U.S. Route 11. Stopping north of Troutville I had this view of the storm with a visible bow:

This was the radar reflectivity and velocity view at the time, showing the bow echo on the southern edge:

That bow echo created rotation along the southern tip of the cell. A bit further north this was a time-lapse of the visibly rotating storm. Here’s a still image:

And here’s the last look at the storm along with the radar view at the time:

The low level rotation is barely detectable on the MRMS operational product view. But this graphic shows the one hour mid-level rotation track ending at 8 pm (0Z 9/13). The 3 blue stars indicate my location at 2319Z, 2325Z, and 2332Z.

Upon review it looks like this storm – which basically “saved the chase day” – was along the cold front itself.

#vawx Finally, another chase!!

After over a month’s hiatus (due to schedule conflicts and lack of timely storms) I finally made it out to chase again. With the potential end of the 2022 season staring me in the face I decided to head out on Wednesday September 7th despite an overall lack of severe weather potential as represented by the SPC Day 1 outlook:

A weak upper level impulse dropping south along the western edge of low pressure centered off the East Coast looked to provide enough energy to fire storms. Overall shear was almost non-existent but modest instability values were at least somewhat encouraging.

Timing per several consecutive runs of the HRRR convinced me to wait until mid-afternoon to head out. Thus I left the driveway at 3:00 pm and motored east along U.S. Route 460 to the Appomattox area, stopping there for a comfort break and to evaluate the situation. With cells dropping south along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge I decided to drive north via VA Route 26, and then located a very rural vantage point from which I had this initial view:

This was the radar reflectivity and velocity scan at the time, with some lightning evident:

As this storm continued southward I witnessed this shelf cloud formation with a possible wall cloud in the background near Amherst:

From here I moved south and west a bit to a known hilltop vantage point:

The radar looked like this at the time, indicating the beginnings of a line both east and west of me:

When the precipitation neared I pushed further east, stopping briefly for this view of the storm’s low level structure coming right at me:

As the convection built along both sides of me I decided to outrun it. Thus I made my way over to VA Route 24, dropping down to Appomattox where I continued south. I threaded my way between growing precipitation cores, finally reaching the vicinity of Red House in Charlotte county after staying mostly dry. I’d noticed some interesting structure to my east while driving along, so I turned in that direction to see this:

This feature south of Pamplin City was gathering scud from the rain shaft, and the radar view seemed to indicate low level rotation:

This is a time-lapse of that cell:

At this point I had to decide whether to keep an eye on this storm by dropping further south or to plunge back west to avoid the cells approaching from the north. Since none of this activity was severe-warned – and with only an hour or so before sunset – I decided to do the latter. This was my view of the northern action as I did an end-around via rural roads to avoid the precipitation:

I rolled west to U.S. Route 501 and pushed south to Brookneal. From there I motored west on VA Route 40 toward Gretna in hopes of intercepting cells dropping south across Bedford county. Alas, with the fading daylight that convection also faded. But I was rewarded with this pink-tinged view of a shelf cloud looking east along Rte 40 as the sun neared the western horizon:

So after a month of non-chasing it was good to get back out there. Hopefully there will be at least a couple more opportunities before the 2022 season comes to a close.

#vawx A very local three-fer chase

Given other responsibilities I haven’t really chased this week. However, I did avail myself of some local vantage points as storms repeatedly rolled across the Roanoke valley. The following photos are a result of those local “chases”.

August 6 shelf cloud over the valley
August 6 shelf approaching the ‘hood
August 7 anvil from approaching storm
Wide angle look at August 7 shelf cloud
August 8 storm near Ft. Lewis Mtn

I didn’t venture out to look at the storms which blasted across the area on Tuesday Aug. 9th or Wednesday Aug. 10th. Even if I hadn’t had other responsibilities, at this point in the summer I find it hard to get motivated to chase. Slow-moving heavy rainers which wind up being “whack-a-moles” don’t hold the attraction they may have had in the early spring, when SDS has become virulent.

#vawx A water-logged August chase

With plenty of moisture and instability and only a hint of shear I knew the Friday August 5th storms would be (a) slow-movers and (b) very wet. A weak upper level impulse pushing across the Appalachians provided the lift to get convection going. This was SPC’s Day 1 outlook:

Watching radar convinced me to depart home base at 1:15 pm and head to a local vantage point for a brief look-see. This was the view across the Roanoke valley a few minutes later:

With plenty of activity showing up east of the mountains I aimed the chasemobile toward Bedford along the U.S. Route 460 corridor. I actually detoured onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit in an effort to take a look at the convection overhanging the Roanoke valley. Not seeing much, I did a U-turn with the chasemobile and got back onto Rte 460 eastbound. Towers were going up further east but I could also see their bases, meaning that action wasn’t very far from me. After a fuel stop in Bedford I decided to push over to the U.S. Route 29 corridor since the radar in that direction was lighting up like a Christmas tree.

Dropping south from Bedford on VA Route 122 I turned east on Route 24, then south on Route 43, merging onto Rte 29 at Altavista. I could see a plethora of storms both to the north and south of me and dithered a bit on which way to head. (Sometimes the hardest decision while chasing is which storm to pick!) A severe-warned complex was approaching the Danville vicinity at this time, but it was a very rainy, very slow-moving mess with little in the way to entice me to give chase.

Another cell had its precipitation already impinging on Rte 29 near Gretna, so I diverted east onto rural Pittsylvania county roads with the intention of continuing south to intercept that activity. However, as I drove along I could see a very active storm to my north, and caught a glimpse of a lowering under a rain-free base. That completely changed my target storm.

Switching directions I motored east and north along back roads to the Hurt vicinity but didn’t see much as the storm seemed to have cycled down. With this complex slowly pushing northeast I decided to roll eastward to the Long Island (VA) area where I thought I could get a decent view of it. While driving in that direction I paused in northern Pittsylvania county for this distant view of a definite lowering / possible wall cloud, evidence that this storm was cycling back up:

Finally reaching my chosen north route I sped toward Long Island, stopping at a known vantage point with this sight to my north:

This was the radar reflectivity and velocity view at the time:

This storm continued to cycle, as shown in this time-lapse .gif. The wall cloud on the right was swallowed by the precipitation shaft while a new wall cloud built south of it:

Wanting to keep an eye on this interesting storm I eventually maneuvered over to the U.S. 501 corridor where I turned north to arrive at the Brookneal / Campbell county airport. The complex had weakened by this time as shown on the radar:

Still, it kept my attention as the feature circled on this photo exhibited some weak rotation (mostly evident via time-lapse):

When this activity mostly died down to stratiform rain I pulled up stakes, heading west to Rte 29 where I again dropped south toward Gretna. There I stopped for a dinner break and to see what the remaining afternoon’s convection would amount to. With storms continuing to fire along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge I pointed the chasemobile in that direction after my repast.

Arriving in the Rocky Mount area I jumped onto U.S. 220 northbound before diving off near Wirtz to use back roads to maneuver around a now-severe warned complex:

Tooling along rural routes I’d never been on before I wound up near Burnt Chimney. There I turned north on Rte 122 to parallel this convection in an attempt to get a look at any potential structure. Alas, Friday evening traffic near Smith Mountain Lake and an accelerating storm motion allowed me only brief glimpses as I pushed northward.

Pausing just south of Bedford I found myself inside the “whale’s mouth” as the complex became outflow dominant. It did provide some fascinating views of cloud motions from underneath the cloud deck, as well as interesting color-drained images:

When the heaviest precipitation finally moved north of Rte 460 I turned west toward home, driving through light rain. In Montvale I stopped to take in this view of the remnant ground fog:

All in all it was a satisfying August chase, especially considering I’d found a cyclic storm amid a generally low shear setup. Oh, and there was plenty of lightning to go around!

#vawx An end-of-July chase

I originally hadn’t planned to chase Sunday July 31st, but radar representations and a nearby warm front changed that. This was the SPC outlook (which also contained a 2% tornado chance) and a subsequent MCD issued for the region:

When I noticed rotation on cells along the U.S. Route 58 corridor east of South Boston I couldn’t help myself, so I jumped in the chasemobile and motored in that direction shortly after 1:30 pm. I made my way eastward to U.S. Route 29 and paused at a site near Blairs. A SW to NE convective line was building here:

I watched and waited for a while, thinking this might be along the eastern edge of the warm front. But these updrafts seemed capped and wouldn’t grow beyond a certain point. Meanwhile, I noticed storms just south of the state line creeping north-northeast, with lightning and some incipient rotation indicated:

Thus I re-engaged the chase, dropping south to Rte 58 at Danville and then using the highway speeds to (barely) catch up with the activity. This was the radar reflectivity and velocity view when I finally found a vantage point just south of the Turbeville area:

And this was my overall view to the south:

Here’s a closer view:

As this storm continued along its path I retreated further east via rural roads, but I was never able to find another decent vantage point among the wilds along the VA/NC state line. Emerging back onto Rte 58 at South Boston I noticed the ceilings had suddenly lowered and the storm I’d been observing had spread out into a mushy mess. Voila, I’d crossed the warm front.

I thus pointed the chasemobile back westward, having noted more convection crossing the Blue Ridge mountains. After a gas and comfort stop near Danville I made a tactical error. Instead of pushing north on U.S. Route 29 to intercept the oncoming convection near Chatham I continued west of Danville and turned north on rural roads. When I reached a known vantage point in western Pittsylvania county this was the radar representation:

This shelf cloud was looming over the Smith Mountain Lake area:

I attempted to stay ahead of the complex on more back roads, and had this view of the shelf cloud moving east along VA Route 40:

Alas, I wasn’t able to stay ahead of the precipitation on the winding tree-lined rural routes. I wound up reaching Rte 40 near Penhook and punched through heavy rain while driving west. The tactical error? The storm ramped up its rotation just east of here – interacting with the westward advancing warm front – and I’d have seen the results if I’d used the Rte 29 corridor a few miles to the east. Oh well…

After emerging from the rain I noticed on radar a strong cell with rotation indicated crossing the Roanoke valley. I decided to wiggle my way toward the Smith Mountain Lake region to intercept this new storm. After wandering around the area for a bit I settled into a vantage point south of Moneta:

Although I was anticipating a potentially interesting evening intercept this wound up being my best view:

The warm front had crept further west and north, and this storm “poofed” as it hit the more stable air on the other side of the boundary. This two hour rotation track ending at 8:30 pm shows the dissipation of the rotation. My vantage point was at the small blue star:

Calling it a chase I motored home from here, driving through more rain from yet another cell. It was a long chase, if only somewhat fruitful.

#vawx Over-promised and under-delivered

Today’s setup looked hopeful for at least a couple of decent chaseable storms. A dissipating warm front draped near the I-64 corridor provided some shear, abundant sunshine over the Piedmont created plenty of instability, and a slowly approaching cold front was to provide some afternoon lift. This was the SPC’s outlook:

And this was the mesoscale discussion and subsequent severe thunderstorm watch which was issued:

However, I did have some concerns based on this 12Z sounding out of Blacksburg, which indicated a decently strong cap in the mid-levels.

But upon checking out both the Dulles Airport and the Greensboro NC soundings I didn’t see any such cap. Thus I concluded that the upper air east of the mountains was ripe for some vigorous convection. And thanks to an upper level impulse there were some strong storms during the very early afternoon hours, one of which prompted a tornado warning northwest of Richmond.

But…the storms my son and I chased were decidedly NOT severe and were obviously affected by a cap. We met just south of Lynchburg, with him piling into the chasemobile. We took off eastward into rural Campbell county to keep an eye on this activity as it entered the severe thunderstorm watch box:

We found a couple of decent vantage points just off rural routes and settled in to observe this slow-moving complex. We watched as scud gathered under part of the line, wondering if it would turn into anything worthwhile even as we noted we hadn’t heard any thunder.

After 20 minutes or so outflow from the line pushed out the beginnings of a shelf cloud:

When precipitation neared our position we dropped a bit further south to keep an eye on things, but after another 15 minutes we punted and moved further south and east to check out some discrete cells that were popping up on radar. We found another convective line early in its development, possibly triggered by the outflow from the western action. This was an impressive cell, but it never grew vertically beyond what this image shows:

We kept up with this line a while longer but finally threw in the towel when it congealed into a blobby mess with little or no visible structure. We never did see any lightning or hear any thunder.

The cap won today.