With a cold front pressing into an uncomfortably hot and steamy airmass there was little doubt storms would fire on Monday July 26th. The SPC had much of the Virginia Piedmont under a Marginal Risk:
The short range convective allowing models (CAMs) varied a bit with regard to timing but overall it looked to be an early beginning to the chase day. Moreover, two or more rounds of storms looked likely given convective initiation on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge followed by lifting impulses associated with the approach of the cold front from the north. Based on those predictions I planned both to leave home during the noon hour and to not get sucked too far south during the early parts of the chase.
Picking up my chase partner before 1:00 pm we rolled south on U.S. Route 220 with an eye toward turning east on VA Route 40 at Rocky Mount. However, about the time I picked him up a storm complex crossing the Roanoke valley went severe-warned. Given the trajectory of that activity we diverted northeast through Burnt Chimney and then up VA Route 122 toward the Smith Mountain Lake vicinity. Thanks to slow traffic coupled with a construction zone (the bane of storm chasers everywhere) we barely kept ahead of the precipitation.
We finally got north of the lake and turned east to find a spot from which to observe. This was the radar reflectivity as we settled – briefly – into our vantage point:
This was our view of the storm off to the northwest:
As the precipitation expanded and moved closer we had few route options from which to choose. We finally decided to ride out most of the storm from a location a bit further east, where we had this view from our boxed-in vantage point:
The rain-free base here did exhibit a little bit of rotation which was only evident via time-lapse. This was the one hour mid-level rotation track ending at 19Z with our first position at the black star and our “trapped” spot at the magenta star:
Finally extricating ourselves from that remote corner of Bedford county I decided it was time to head north and east. Storms were firing near Charlottesville and moving south, corresponding to some stronger activity which I’d noticed on several CAMs earlier in the day. So we popped up to U.S. Route 460 and then zoomed east to Appomattox. There we motored north via Virginia Route 26 and finally settled into a hilltop vantage point which I’d found on a chase earlier this year. This was the radar reflectivity and velocity view as we began our observation of severe storm #2 from here:
The storms were moving southeast at a glacial pace (< 15 mph) so we sat here for a while, keeping an eye on the western edge where rotation seemed to be present via radar. Unfortunately the hazy air made it tough to see details until the entire complex came nearer:
The low level scud in the above photo represented a robust outflow boundary, which cooled us with sustained ~35 mph winds. We kept an eye on this activity for quite a while before concluding it was indeed weakening as shown on this one hour rotation track ending at 21Z (our location was at the black star):
However, by that time the outflow had fired convection literally just to our south. As we pulled up stakes and departed our magnificent hilltop vista a well-defined convective line was evident a couple miles to our south. Dropping south via VA Rte 26 and then turning east on a rural road we had this view of the line crossing right-to-left in front of us as it spit out numerous close-at-hand CG’s.
The convective core to our east hinted at hail just as did one not far to the west. Thus we chose to thread the needle and zoomed south via Rte 26 through the rain back to Appomattox. This is the two hour hail swath ending at 2130Z with our punch-through shown by the black arrow:
As we pushed through Appomattox this complex also went severe-warned, making for the third warned storm of our chase day.
Scooting along more rural roads south of town we finally found an open vantage point ahead of the rain. This wound up being our final stop of the day just after 5:00 p.m. as this complex visibly weakened:
Turning for home we called it a day, arriving at my partner’s house just as another severe storm began to drench the area. (I didn’t count this one as #4 since I avoided it on my way home.) I did make one last stop to photo the sunset:
Overall it was a good chase even though we didn’t see any noteworthy structure. The close CG display near Appomattox, the cooling outflow gusts, and avoiding two hail cores made for a successful chase in my book.