The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) centered a slight risk for severe weather in my chase area and I took full advantage, leaving home around 2:00 p.m. to head for the Route 29 corridor near Culpeper in hopes of catching a discrete storm in the lee of the Blue Ridge mountains. Unfortunately the storms crossed the ridge as a line and continued on their way, but I did manage to choose the strongest cell to follow thanks to radar and GPS. I rambled through a bit of eastern Culpeper county to find a spot to watch and found this view of an oncoming shelf cloud:

Continuing eastward from here I found an even better vantage point from which to observe the severe-warned storm approach and watched for several minutes.

When the rain shaft approached I scooted northeastward toward the back side of the town of Lignum and wound up catching this view of a suspicious feature very near the rural route I was on:

It was suspicious not only in looks but also in that CG’s were raining down in its vicinity plus a very large hailstone suddenly and without warning smacked the middle of my windshield. I couldn’t tell how large it had been but the leftover slush pattern was about three inches in diameter. After that surprise I saw and heard several other hailstones but none seemed larger than quarter-sized. I stopped in Lignum to watch and video this lowering but never saw any rotation.

Then, somehow I came up with the not-so-bright idea to closely follow and even core punch this storm as it continued eastward. Thus I pulled out onto Virginia Route 3 and gave chase, noting the further east I traveled that the rain intensity increased, the wind speed picked up dramatically, and the smaller twigs and leaves that were showering the highway began to get larger and more numerous. When I reached the Lake of the Woods vicinity I was finally convinced that I needed to get off the road for safety’s sake. By this time the rain was horizontal, branches were snapping off trees and landing in the roadway, and the continuous pea-sized hail sounded like shotgun pellets bouncing off the car’s exterior.

When conditions improved significantly I eased back out onto the highway and moved east a few miles, stopping just behind the storm to call in a report to the NWS Sterling office. (I had tried to do so earlier but couldn’t get a call through.) Watching for a while longer I finally headed home through the damage path of this severe storm, including a number of traffic signals that were non-functional due to widespread power outages. After playing “dodge ’em” cars at a few intersections I made it home to no electricity for a couple of hours. The upside? The sunset:

And this doesn’t begin to do it justice…