Under an SPC Marginal Risk and given a prediction of early initiation by short term models I headed out at 11 a.m. today. It looked like the best combo of instability and shear would be near the NC/VA border so I dropped south to Martinsville where I grabbed a quick lunch. As I ate a couple of cells popped up west of town so I rapidly finished my repast and motored eastward to a vantage point:
This was the “Tail-End Charlie” cell on a short line segment and it appeared to be slowly intensifying. Thus I continued south on rural roads – with an unexpected detour due to a closed road – and wound up just across the NC line watching the cell come toward me.
About that time I received a severe TS warning notice for Roanoke and quickly widened the radar view. Not only was that particular storm warned it had very robust neighbors as well. I dithered all of 30 seconds before pulling up stakes and punching thru the rain core of the storm I’d been chasing to head north. Apparently I’d guessed wrong about the best dynamics for today.
Finally reaching U.S. Route 58 I pushed east to Danville and then north on U.S. Route 29, hoping the highway speeds would get me into position on time. Alas, by the time I rolled north of Chatham the storms had begun to congeal into a squall line that then went severe warned. So at Gretna I diverted east on VA Route 40 in an attempt to gain position on the line but it picked up forward speed.
Instead of turning north as I’d planned I continued east to Cody where I witnessed this suspicious scud:
Not really having time to stop and observe I turned southeast on the Cody road to try to put some distance between me and the leading edge. I made a brief stop in Republican Grove where the darkness of the approaching storm made quite a contrast with the sunlit tobacco fields below:
Now the line was REALLY close so I dove southwest and then south, winding up at VA Route 57. I had two choices: turn east and continue running ahead of the still developing squall line or turn west and punch through a relatively weak section. I chose the latter and the leading edge shelf cloud rolled over me:
Driving eastward with both hands firmly on the wheel I experienced heavy rain, strong outflow winds, and some quarter-inch to half-inch hail that rattled on the hood and roof of the chasemobile. Finally arriving on the other side of the mess I heaved a sigh of relief and then noticed that the entire line in my vicinity had just gone severe warned:
Thankful to have conducted my core punch before things got too hot and heavy I motored on to Chatham and turned north on Rte 29. While taking a short cut on rural roads I stopped and snapped a photo of the mammatus field over Pittsylvania county on the back side of the line: