So go figure…I spent all sorts of time and money on a chase trip to Tornado Alley without seeing a funnel cloud, and I go on a last-minute ho-hum so-what chase in my figurative backyard and see one on a day when little or no severe weather was forecast!
When the radar started lighting up early this afternoon I decided to invest another hour of vacation time and headed out the door for a local chase / spotting expedition. As I eased my way eastward through King George courthouse I noticed several updrafts building so I aimed the chasemobile at a favorite viewing spot about 3 miles west of there. At ~1500 I noticed scud rising into a lowering cloud base just east of my position so I videoed it and snapped a bunch of still photos just in case rotation made an appearance. (Still need to edit that video.)
Nothing exciting happened by 1530 so I turned the car and the cameras around to face southwest, where I could see a rain-free base between two separate cells. As I was paying attention to an interesting feature in the left of the video field of view I suddenly noticed at ~1542 a vertical tube in the center of the view extending most of the way to the ground. Voila, a rope funnel!
As I hurriedly searched for the NWS Sterling storm report number on my cellphone the funnel morphed into a wedge, but I never was able to confirm debris underneath it to prove a tornado had happened:
I finally found the right number via a phone call to my wife and called in a spotting report to Sterling, but the met there seemed a lot less excited than I was. What happened was this storm had caught up with the retreating warm front that was over our area. The resulting shear – although not terrific – was enough to spin out at least one funnel, perhaps two (one may have occurred to the right of the original rope funnel). Again, another Virginia surprise!