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Under today’s SPC Marginal Risk I didn’t expect much but was pleasantly surprised. A warm front / wedge boundary was hanging between the U.S. Route 220 and 460 corridors as an upper level wind maximum approached from the southwest. My goal was to catch up with a storm that formed over the warm sector and then plowed into the shear zone over the frontal boundary and I did just that.

A cell fired over the mountains west of Roanoke and promptly split, with the left split intensifying into a supercell and heading northwest across the Appalachians.IMG_4294

The right split steered more or less directly toward Daleville so I maneuvered to a nearby hilltop sports complex and switched on the live stream. I had this view as a strong hail core approached:Storm over Tinker MtnIMG_4297

Not wanting to get slammed I departed just as the precipitation began and wound my way along rural roads over to U.S. Route 11. I jogged east to a road that crossed the hills and found a couple of places for quick stops to watch the incredible lightning show. Winding up near the hamlet of Blue Ridge I paused in a hillside parking lot for the five o’clock broadcast of the local TV station. I watched as the storm base and accompanying slowly rotating mesocyclone moved overhead:

Storm base approaching Blue Ridge

Fortunately the hail core had weakened at this point so all I experienced was large raindrops that may have contained some partially melted hail. (There were a couple of “almost” pings.)

From here I played leapfrog with the heavy rain via U.S. Route 460 eastbound, letting the storm pull ahead and north of me a bit before following. As I motored east of Montvale I stopped to catch this view of a wall cloud north of the highway.Wide view of Bedford wall cloudWall cloud over Bedford county

Continuing to the Bedford Visitor Center I had this overall view of the storm’s base as it began to weaken in the cold air north of the front.Storm base looking N from Bedford VC

I followed the storm east via 460 but gave up on it as it began to look rather pitiful in the stable cold air. Then, amazingly enough, a severe thunderstorm warning popped up as it neared the outskirts of Lynchburg. Visually it was much weaker than it had been before the warning so I’m not sure what caused NWS Blacksburg to pull the trigger at this point.

There was another complex to the south over Franklin county so I dropped down to VA Route 24 to check it out. However the business end of that storm was moving due east and it became apparent that I couldn’t get to it without core punching so I called it a day.

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