Now there’s something that doesn’t happen every year…a storm chase in Virginia during February. But with the models showing very impressive shear values plus a squall line pressing across the Old Dominion I couldn’t stay at home. That explains my oh-dark-thirty wakeup on a Friday morning and a subsequent chase that ended by 11:00 a.m.
I met my son in Tightsqueeze (Chatham vicinity) where we sat in a parking lot watching the squall line approach. As it did some interesting features began to appear:
These “rain bands” seemed to be developing around a possible mesolow in the squall line so we watched them carefully. But while the bands didn’t materialize into anything interesting several discrete cells popped up east of the line in North Carolina. Knowing the shear conditions these storms would tap as they steamed northeastward into Virginia we jumped into the chasemobile and motored east on Rte 57 toward Halifax to intercept.
By the time we reached these fast-moving cells they were coalescing into short line segments just ahead of the squall line. We drove through heavy rain near Halifax and pushed east of town, crossing U.S. 360 and heading toward Staunton River State Park. Southeast of Scottsburg we finally got ahead of the rain and found a place to stop and look west at the next oncoming segment.
The southern end had a faint inflow tail feeding into it and the storm itself exhibited broad rotation on radar. A later check of local storm reports listed one describing a couple of downed trees from high winds between Scottsburg and South Boston to our south less than 20 minutes before the above photo. That was “our” storm!
Meanwhile a tornado watch was issued literally for the next county east of us, with watches eventually stretching all the way to the coast and north to the Mason/Dixon line. But even though conditions were juicier further east we were already at the edge of the region I was willing to chase this time. Thus we let the storms escape in that direction while we called it a day. We then splashed our way west through first the squall line and then a thin line of showers associated with the cold front itself. Chase over!