My son and I headed east toward Gretna this afternoon for some family business and a thought that we’d keep an eye on the sky in case anything worth chasing showed up.  Sure enough on our way eastward a nice storm built over the Blue Ridge mountains and a lowering underneath its rain-free base caught our eyes as we rolled into Burnt Chimney, so we stopped to take some photos.

When this small feature dissipated we shrugged and continued merrily eastward for a few minutes until I looked over my shoulder (my son was driving) and saw a well-formed wall cloud under the same storm.  We quickly did a u-turn and found a place to pull off the road, observe, and snap photos for a while.

Wall cloud

Structure shot with wall cloud underneath

I videoed this feature and a quick preliminary viewing shows this wall cloud to be rotating (edited video to be posted later).  After this wall cloud began dissipating we had to scoot east to Gretna so we left the storm to itself, and it inconveniently died not too long after this. 

After we finished our business we took a peek at radar and noticed that a convective line that we could see along the Blue Ridge was heading northeast so we boogied up U.S. Route 29 toward Lynchburg to catch the southern cell.  Following another radar inspection we cut through back roads to U.S. Route 460 west of town and motored to Bedford as the cell we were chasing fell apart in front of us.  We ate a quick dinner in Bedford and kept heading west to meet more storms that were crossing the mountains.

When we reached Montvale I caught a quick glimpse of an interesting feature and asked my son to pull off the road.  As we rolled to a stop this is what we saw:

6:21 p.m.

It very much looked like a mesocyclone base with a stovepipe funnel under it, but when we checked radar there was no indication of rotation under this rapidly growing cell.  Somewhat bemused we watched as this feature not only persisted but grew to look even more like a funnel under a meso base, with rotational striations evident.

6:24 p.m.

6:28 p.m.

We moved a mile further east to get a better view of this on the other side of the hill in the foreground but by that time the entire thing had dissipated.  I did take some shaky hand-held video but neither it nor visual observation could conclusively prove that this feature was rotating.  So did we see a substantial funnel under a rapidly growing convective tower or not?  I reserve judgement on this one.

As the blogpost title says…