When short term and medium range models plus the Storm Prediction Center all indicate a potential for decent storms I pay attention…as I did today. SPC had much of central and southern Virginia under a Marginal Risk while the models showed 0-6 km shear in the 35-40 knot range with CAPEs over 2000. Thus I headed down the driveway just after 1 pm.
Stopping in Gretna to pick up my son – chase partner – allowed a review of surface observations and radar. We finally rolled onto U.S. Route 29 north when a line of several discrete storms – a Mid-Atlantic version of a “string of pearls” – erupted over Franklin and Bedford counties. The best looking cell was north of U.S. Route 460 and showed strong winds and some rotation on radar. However even though that storm went severe we reluctantly dismissed it as it was steaming northeastward along the Blue Ridge mountains toward not-so-great chase country near Amherst.
Meanwhile we had pushed north to Yellow Branch on Rte 29 and turned east on VA Route 24 toward Rustburg. During a brief stop to check out the evolving setup we noticed the next cell south in the line was splitting on radar. Quickly perusing maps we continued east to U.S. Route 501 and dove south to Gladys to intercept the southern split. Here’s a view of the two cells (looking west) as we live streamed:
As the southern cell slid southeastward we continued along rural routes to the Long Island (Virginia, not New York!) area. Switching on the live stream again for the local TV station we sat here for a while as the storm approached. The rain free base feverishly vacuumed up scud and formed a brief wall cloud that matched up with weak rotation on radar:
When the precipitation shaft approached with probable hail enclosed we dropped south a couple of miles to avoid it. Near Straightstone we had this view as the rain free base approached:
At this juncture it was a race between the storm’s approach and the 5 o’clock news lead in. We retreated further south and east but didn’t manage to avoid the precipitation as we live streamed for the local TV station. The good news was that the hail signature had weakened, but the bad news was that all the TV viewers had was a fuzzy view of heavy rain…assuming our very intermittent WiFi signal allowed the stream to publish to the Web.
Even tho’ this cell still looked good on radar we let it go as it continued eastward toward less favorable chase terrain. Another updraft was punching up behind it so we rolled west to check it out. It faded, however, so the best I could do was this panorama of the cells now to our south and east:
We called it a day at this point with no other chaseable storms to be had and headed for dinner in Gretna. I could have wished for a bit more action given the available CAPE and shear but it was a decent chase nonetheless.