Day 12 of the “Sixteen Years of Virginia Storm Chasing” series: There were several candidate accounts from 2013 but this May 11th chase was the one I chose to include. It was actually a rolling reconnaissance as I returned from a family visit in northern Virginia.
“I started the chase from the Zion Crossroads interchange on I-64. A peek at radar revealed a line of storms stretching from northeast of Richmond southwestward into central Virginia. To intercept this action I hopped on I-64 eastbound and then exited onto U.S. Route 522. Finding that 522 evaporates south of the interstate I continued via county routes down to U.S. Route 360 near Amelia Courthouse.
I stopped along Rte 360 west of the courthouse between two cells to keep an eye on both. The easternmost storm developed a wall cloud while the western storm faded:
Motoring east of Amelia on rural roads I caught another view of the developing wall cloud but couldn’t verify rotation on it:
After sending a report to a Richmond area television station I let this cell go on its merry way eastbound. I then redirected southward toward Blackstone toward the U.S. Route 460 corridor to catch up with more storms firing to the southwest.
As I motored along my son called – he was out chasing too – and advised me to target a cell heading directly for Blackstone. Sure enough that storm went severe-warned as I moved west of town to intercept it. I was able to get close to it and leap frog in front of it several times while watching it develop a picturesque wall cloud:
Between the time of the above photo and the time I conducted another leap frog maneuver and snapped this next photo (8 minutes elapsed time) the wall cloud had begun a transformation into a shelf cloud as the storm became outflow dominant:
I let this cell pass by just north of me and decided to call it a day and head west for home….but Nature had something else in mind.
I packed up my camera gear but kept the radar view going, noticing a line of convection west of the Blue Ridge. I concluded it was the actual cold front pushing eastward. When I neared Lynchburg on Rte 460 one particular updraft directly in my path looked very impressive as it also went severe-warned.
I pushed west of the city congestion and basically raced the storm to a point where I could pull off Rte 460 to watch. I witnessed the third and most impressive wall cloud of the day as it appeared above the tree line to my west. It tightened as it approached my location with obvious rotation characteristics:
After sending in a report to NWS Blacksburg I stayed at this vantage point while this feature transited eastbound perhaps a quarter mile to my south. The worst of the precipitation was south of the wall cloud so I wasn’t concerned about hail at my location. However I did keep a wary eye on nearby lightning and stayed inside the chasemobile.
After this storm passed by I continued homeward, completely sated with storms for the day. It was a good chase!”