I have a confession to make: I don’t look forward to chase days like today. Low ceilings, lots of rain, rapid storm speeds (50+ mph), and messy line segments that morph into “rainy blobs” all translate into spending lots of time zooming around in the chasemobile and not much time outside ,watching convection. Throw in our family’s “Moderate Risk curse” (we’ve had very little luck under the big “M”) and today had all the ingredients of a trying and difficult chase.
Having said all that I did obtain a measure of enjoyment today DESPITE the early start. Given the dynamics and timing derived from short range models I was prepared to head down the driveway before noon…but then I peeked at the radar at 9:45ish this morning. A cell southwest of Martinsville was already exhibiting a strong rotation couplet and tracking northward so I hurriedly finished my chase preps and departed.
After plowing through heavy rain I finally reached an almost dry location near Burnt Chimney to stop and regain situational awareness. That storm (#1 of my day) had gone tornado-warned and looked as if it was tracking toward my position:
With both the storm motion and the polygon “leaning” to the east I decided that I needed to retreat in that direction. Unfortunately the lack of a helpful road network in that part of Franklin county coupled with the forward speed of the storm put me too far away when it screamed past my latitude. I quickly doubled back west on VA Route 40 to Glade Hill where I turned north on a rural road in an attempt to catch back up.
This was the best view of storm #1 that I was afforded during a very quick stop on that country route:
During that stop the inflow winds were ferocious, pushing me around while I snapped the picture. This was my location on the radar with respect to the storm: I wound up traveling north of the Smith Mountain Lake area in a vain attempt to (a) find a vantage point to watch from and (b) catch back up with the business end. I finally called off the pursuit and reversed course to intercept more storms that were pressing northward.
By this time my son was out chasing and joined me at Glade Hill where we temporarily dropped a vehicle to chase together for a bit. Storm #2 was moving in our direction so we stopped to watch as this storm, showing broad rotation and a hook-like feature on radar, took aim at Rocky Mount.
We thought the rotation would tighten up but it never did and we didn’t see anything remarkable under this updraft nor did it receive any kind of warning:
Given a break in the action we rolled onward to Rocky Mount for lunch where we listened to the locals talk about the tornado that had ravaged areas not far south of town. Photos and videos were all over social media so I had to chalk up another missed opportunity.
After our fast food “feast” we spent some extra time catching up on life before driving back to Glade Hill. There we picked up his vehicle and convoyed southwest to Callands in Pittsylvania county. We found ourselves in a dry slot between several discrete cells that had gone tornado-warned east of us and a severe-warned line of storms to our west. Given how fast things were happening we decided to split the difference with an eye toward intercepting the “Tail-End Charlie” cell on the line. It was showing interesting structure on radar:
We rolled east on VA Route 57 to find a spot from which to watch the line approach. This was the pleasant rural view we had for 20 minutes or so from the site we chose:
When the line built east a bit we retreated in that direction to stay out of the rain. Just before we pulled away from this section of the squall line we had a good view of some nascent “greenage” that I tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to capture in a photo:
After struggling to find a spot from which to check out this action again we punted and drove through Chatham to U.S. Route 29 where we headed south at highway speeds. “Tail-End Charlie” had gone tornado-warned by this time so we stopped at a favorite vantage point just off Rte 29 south of Tightsqueeze to watch. This was our view of the updraft:
Per radar the circulation passed less than 3 miles west of us but we never saw anything notable visually:
Jumping back onto Rte 29 northward we diverted onto back roads east of Chatham to try and gain position on this accelerating storm. Falling further behind it we wound up pulling back onto Rte 29 to use the highway speeds to try to catch back up. We didn’t have much success. Thus at our final stop in rural Pittsylvania county near the village of Hurt we waved bye-bye to this storm as zoomed away.
Overall today was a decent chase day despite my misgivings. I can’t complain about that!