Needing to be north of Charlottesville around lunchtime for family matters I knew that chasing was likely on the way home…especially since the Storm Prediction Center had issued a Slight Risk for much of the Virginia Piedmont as a cold front neared the region. Thus I took my chase gear with me and was thankful that I did.
Southbound by early afternoon I paused near I-64 to determine the most promising path homeward. With storm motions generally east-southeast I knew I needed to stay well east of the mountains so I rolled down U.S. Route 15. I had seen storms erupting on radar in southside Virginia (Henry and Pittsylvania counties) but there was little possibility that I could reach them in time. So as I neared and then drove through the town of Dillwyn I took notice of a developing storm to the west. After a quick stop for gas and a restroom break I monitored this particular cell which became severe-warned and thus became my initial target.
I pushed northward out of town on VA Route 20 and diverted onto back roads. As is typical in Old Dominion chasing I struggled to find open vantage points that would allow me to observe the storm, finally stopping at this location to live stream and to snap this photo of a lowering underneath it (which I tweeted to NWS Blacksburg):
As I watched both visually and on radar I noticed that this storm’s motion had become east-northeast, counter to the overall east-southeast storm motion trend for the day. That vector change confused my chase navigation plans mightily.
Continuing along rural routes without much success at finding other observations spots I wound up back on Rte 15 north of Dillwyn. At this point the storm was entering a “no man’s land” for chasing near the James River basin, with winding rural roads, little available vantage points, and spotty cellular coverage. But I chose to dive eastward on one county route and quickly wound up out of position on this storm amid the winding path and everpresent treelines.
I made my way back to and thru Dillwyn and stopped on the southern edge of town to regain situational awareness. I noticed a voicemail on my phone from a NWS Blacksburg meteorologist friend who had seen my Spotter Network indicator on this storm. When I called the office I found that the NWS folks were looking for confirmation of any severe features under this storm. Having already sent them the photo of a lowering underneath it I told them I had pulled off the storm due to the poor road network.
Given their interest – Buckingham county is the extreme northeastern edge of their county warning area – I decided to head back north on Rte 15 (thru Dillwyn again!) and see what I could observe under the well-defined back edge of the storm. Able to see a rainfree base from Gold Hill I tweeted NWS Blacksburg a fuzzy photo but that was it as the complex was really unreachable at this point. Thus I headed south on Rte 15, driving thru Dillwyn yet again before I stopped for a dinner-time snack and a look at the bigger chasing picture. No convection was evident on radar between me and home base but I was unwilling to call it a chase at this early hour.
There was a line of storms approaching Charlottesville that looked as if they might hold together for a while. But this line looked as if it would hug the I-64 and James River corridor as it moved toward Richmond so I was unsure of the wisdom of waiting for that action. So I pushed west and south to stop at the Appomattox Battlefield area to stretch my legs, watch radar, and dither for a while.
The line of storms held together and began building southward a bit, looking like it would brush the north edges of…Dillwyn! So I swept back north and found a spot near the intersection of U.S. Routes 60 and 15 – aka Sprouse’s Corner – and set up shop. The next-to-last cell on the line was passing just east of me and pushed out a nice shelf cloud:
Meanwhile I was struggling with my live stream but never was able to successfully get it going. I abandoned the effort as this storm and the “Tail-End Charlie” cell crossed left-to-right in front of me pushing out very cool outflow air. This photo was taken looking at the area of highest radar-indicated VIL on the last storm:
As this was passing by a couple of miles north of me I kept a wary eye on a rainfree base that passed literally overhead my position. I wasn’t too concerned as the lightning had ramped down to almost nil and the parent storm was outflow dominant. However the base was slowly rotating and had various cloud swirls that indicated the overall rotating tendency:
As this “Tail-End Charlie” cell passed east of me I snapped this photo of a heavy precipitation shaft that was crossing Rte 60 eastbound. It may have had some hail in it per radar VIL trends:
At this point I decided to let the line slide eastward without giving pursuit given the poor chasing territory in that direction. With no other convection to pay attention to I then headed home as twilight and then darkness settled in.