Wow! Talk about an unexpected bonus; I knew today’s forecast allowed for some probability of storms, but I’d heard nothing about severity in our area. So when I saw a few storms heading eastward from the Blue Ridge I figured I’d at least get a local chase/spotting opportunity. Little did I know what I would experience. Leaving home just after 5 pm I caught a glimpse of the approaching system as I headed toward a local elementary school parking lot. After I got situated and turned on the cameras I saw the first lowering (closeup) which immediately caught my attention. The closeup view shows some striation which probably meant rotation, but the entire gust front was moving so fast I couldn’t distinguish rotational from translational movement. The amount of greenage visible was startling, but I knew I couldn’t linger if I wanted to stay ahead of the wind and rain so I moved a mile or so east to a church parking lot where the second lowering came into clear view (compare my “x” location on the 1720 doppler image above). The translational speed was very evident here as the leading edge and greenage moved overhead before I realized it. Still convinced I could stay ahead of the storm I zoomed off eastward faster than I should have, especially given that I was now fighting the extremely strong outflow winds which were depositing leaves and small branches literally in my path. I was able to make my way to a north-south road that would lead me down to State Route 3 so I could continue eastward before conditions went to pieces. I did snap this view of the third lowering to my north; was it rotating? Check out the Tornado Vorticity Signature on the 1741 radar view above (cell V2); this was the part of the storm I was seeing when I took the photo at 1733. I couldn’t tell given the rapid movement of the storm, and I surely didn’t have time to call NWS Sterling to give a storm report given the blowing dust, high winds, and heavy rain that suddenly made an appearance. I tore down the road toward Route 3 amid more leaves and branches on the road when I suddenly had to hit the brakes as I came upon a tree that completely blocked the road. On a narrow road with no way to turn around I only hesitated a couple of seconds before I jumped out into the full gale and heavy rain to move part of the tree out of the way so I could go around it. (Fortunately it was a dead tree and the top part had broken off when it hit the ground, so it was easy to move.) Before making it to Route 3 visibility dropped to near zero and hail rattled off the windshield, so I pulled off and waited the storm’s passage…which I should have done in the church parking lot. Only later did I read the severe TS warning that indicated this system was moving at >45 mph; I would have been safer and smarter to have done a “static core punch”. Live and learn…

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