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Okay, so maybe it WAS an April Fools’ chase yesterday.

An early morning shortwave triggered showers and a couple of peals of thunder during the pre-dawn hours Friday (4/1). The activity came thru earlier than some models had indicated a day or so prior but I was in no mood to head out the door before 5:00 a.m. to intercept the action.

Even so the sun came back out by mid-morning and the atmosphere responded, destabilizing enough over Roanoke and points east for updrafts to start climbing. CAPE values were approaching 1000 j/kg, the 0-6 km shear was in excess of 50 kts, and dew points were over 60 degrees so with cells beginning to build I was hopeful of seeing something worthwhile.

I left home at 1 pm, picked up a chase partner, and motored to a point near Glade Hill on VA Route 40 by 2 o’clock to wait. We could already see cells going up just east of the Blue Ridge with this one to our north:

northern updraft

We stayed put for almost 30 minutes and kept an eye on another storm building to our southwest as it headed toward us:southwestern cell

As it approached both radar views and visual observation seemed to indicate this updraft was splitting. When it neared we pushed a couple miles south of Glade Hill to a vantage point where I switched on the live stream. The rain-free bases on both halves of the split kept my attention but no definitive features formed under them. Also we both noted that we had yet to see any lightning or hear any thunder, an indication that these were low-topped storms.

When the rain encroached on our position we moved back east along Rte 40 to our original stop where we both noticed a worrisome trend. A thick layer of high clouds was moving into the area from the south. A quick check of visible satellite confirmed this cloud deck was solid from our location south, covering much of North Carolina. I was concerned that this was a “convection killer” and unfortunately my fears were realized.

As we continued our retreat eastward ahead of the rain the cells steadily diminished in intensity. By the time we reached U.S. 29 at Gretna things were looking bleak. Another small area of convection over northern North Carolina was chugging toward the Martinsville / Danville corridor so we drove south to check it out. That activity also fell apart before we could get to it.

Thus we called it a chase and ate dinner in Martinsville before rolling home. Altho’ it was an enjoyable outing it qualified as a busted chase, so…April Fools to me!

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