I didn’t hold out high hopes for chasing conditions today given the amount of rain forecast (flood watches were posted well ahead of time) and the limited instability. Sure enough we wound up with an early squall line that was pretty much unbroken as it trudged slowly eastward. The only way to chase a squall line is to keep retreating in front of it – hoping for discrete cells to fire out ahead – and that’s what we did.

I left home mid-morning and met my son in Burnt Chimney (Franklin county) VA. The heavy rain arrived almost as soon as we did so we beat a hasty retreat eastward. It took us reaching Gretna along U.S. 29 before we pulled far enough ahead of the precipitation to provide the time to set up a live stream from the “cockpit”:

Chasemobile cockpit with copilot

As the line approached we realized the race was on between the squall line reaching our location and the use of our live stream on the noon news broadcast of a local TV station.

Squall line approaching Gretna
The squall line won so our live stream showed a lot of rain through the windshield for the folks watching the weather segment. (One of these days we’re going to show something worth seeing!!)
After the broadcast was over we scooted eastward through Gretna, stopping a couple of times ahead of the line to watch and take photos:
Looking west from eastern Pittsylvania county
We turned south on Cody Road to cut the corner over to U.S. 501. Since that shortcut has several good spots for westward views we stopped again in Republican Grove to watch and wait:
From this location we finally heard some thunder, something that was scarce today due to the low cloud tops.
Moving on to the Rte 501 intersection at Volens we wanted to turn south but that part of the squall line had surged forward and heavy rain blocked our path. Thus we instead headed north to Brookneal, arriving literally 90 seconds ahead of the precipitation shaft. At this point we decided that continuing eastward was fruitless as the road system and visibilities were less favorable in that direction. So I snapped one last photo of the line as it pushed overhead:
From this spot we hoofed it to a local restaurant as the rain began pounding down around us. After enjoying a tasty repast while the worst of the line passed we drove back to Gretna where I dropped off my son. I then continued on to the Rocky Mount vicinity to await further developments but nothing worth chasing transpired. So I rolled homeward to watch radar and stay out of more heavy rain.
I’m ready for some truly discrete storms to chase: no more rainy mess, no more widespread overcast, and plenty of visibility. Oh yeah, I head to the Plains states this weekend so I may get my wish sooner rather than later!
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