In honor of the continuing cold weather I have been playing with some older chase photos and remembered the fateful evening of 23 July 2008 as my son and I were heading from a Culpeper area chase near dusk when a surprise funnel popped out underneath a developing convective line just ahead of us. We were traveling east on Route 3 in Spotsylvania county, nearing the Wilderness (Rte 20) intersection when we first spied the feature and zoomed further east in an attempt to find an untreed vista. Before we stopped I snapped this photo (my son was driving) through the windshield:
After we finally pulled off the busy highway I oriented myself toward the northeast and snapped a raft of photos, one of which was this one:
The cloud tags were rotating around a vertical axis while moving upward, so altho’ there was no visible debris on the ground beneath it I dubbed it an official tornado. We watched this line as the wall cloud built and reformed several times before the rain and storm movement obscured our view. Almost ready to quit as darkness fell (and traffic worsened) we checked radar and found the line behind us that we had given up on was redeveloping, so we rolled down Catharpin Road to a western facing vista and observed – via lightning flashes – what was likely another tornado well after dark:
Not bad for a chase that we thought was over before things really got started!