So the NAM was correct in screaming SEVERE today!! Things got very hectic today…and that was outside of chasing / seeing four (I think, after a recount!) separate tornado-warned storms.
I initially headed for Danville and found that the wedge had broken just south of White Oak Mountain on Rte 29 when I broke into warmer air and clearing skies. I stopped at the NC Visitors Center south of Danville for a noon live stream for the local TV station. When that was done I made the decision to jog west toward Martinsville to take a gander at a robust north/south line of storms along the Blue Ridge mountains.
After some (mostly unsuccessful) attempts to find open vantage points I swapped directions at the Rte 220 exit off the Rte 58 bypass around Martinsville. The line was pushing east and nearing my location, with each individual cell along it screaming northeastward at highway speeds. I figured the best way to “chase” was to stay ahead of the action and watch individual storms as they zoomed north along the line.
I hopscotched ahead of the activity trying to stay ahead of the rain. After a couple of short stops I leapfrogged east of Danville to a hilltop location across Rte 58 from the airport. From there I switched on the live feed and basically didn’t turn it off for quite a while afterward. This storm relative velocity radar grab shows three separate cells and my location. Each storm eventually wound up garnering its own tornado warning:
This is the southern edge of the cell just west of Danville in the radar grab:
Lowerings are visible under the base and the main wall cloud – I think – is behind the hill on the right of the frame.
I let this first storm pass by as (a) the rain from it didn’t reach my location and (b) there was no way I could keep up with its forward speed. This photo is taken a bit later and is of the second storm in the line, the one near Reidsville in the radar grab. The wall cloud is becoming obvious:
When rain from storm #2 began encroaching on my location I pushed further east on Rte 58 and cast around for a rural route northeastward. I finally turned north onto Ringgold Depot Rd and followed it past Ringgold. By this time cell #2 had become tornado-warned and this was a photo from a very quick stop. The dangly lowering may or may not have been a funnel…I didn’t have a lot of time to watch and the storm was steaming left to right at a pretty good clip:Continuing northward I desperately sought an east route, finally finding Rte 730 (Countryside Drive). Just east of the intersection I stopped to photo the rear of storm #2 before turning around to see this wall cloud under storm #3 (the one between Reidsville and Greensboro in the radar grab) coming up fast from the southwest:
I called in a wall cloud report to NWS Blacksburg from this location. Since this storm was also tornado-warned I felt obligated to provide some ground truth as I had a smidgeon of time to do so.
As I motored eastward from here my phone rang with a number from Georgia that I didn’t recognize. Thus I didn’t accept the call and kept driving, looking for the next road and watching both storms. Several minutes later during a stop to check the map I listened to the voicemail and found it was the Weather Channel wanting me to do a phoner with them! I called back and wound up doing the interview while stopped at the next road intersection.
When that was finished I turned south toward Rte 58 again since storm #4 was headed my way (that was the storm near Greensboro in the radar grab above). Before I had gone 2 miles the phone rang again with a request for a phoner from the local TV station. I obliged them while I maneuvered my way along county roads and then turned east on 58.
At this point storm #4 was just to my southwest and had a rather impressive hail core on it in addition to becoming tornado-warned. Thus I was very motivated to stay ahead of it and not get clobbered. While I sped east toward South Boston the phone rang yet again, this time with a request from another local TV station (this and the Weather Channel request were related but that’s another story) for an interview. I did that phoner without stopping since any hesitation would have meant getting steamrolled by the core.
As I approached South Boston it was painfully apparent that I wasn’t outrunning the hail core so I took shelter under a gas station awning. The VIL values diminished just as the storm reached me so I didn’t see any hailstones peppering the ground. Once the core cleared the highway I rolled east of South Boston to check out yet another storm as it exited North Carolina into Virginia. As I drove east on Rte 58 I noticed twigs and small branches strewn across the highway by one of the earlier storms and then saw this ahead of me:
(I did pull off the road and stop before snapping this photo.)
Not long after this I pulled off the highway and evaluated the situation. With the storms now rain-wrapped it wouldn’t have been fruitful to keep going east. That, plus the fact that I was ravenous (no lunch) dictated a prudent ending to the chase.