Today wasn’t a typical May chase but it helped dispel the May 2016 overcast blues. The setup wasn’t classic…in fact it was more typical of winter than late spring.
A double barreled low pressure symptomatic of a “Miller B” storm provided a convergence zone atop U.S. Route 220 between Roanoke and Greensboro NC. Circulation around a coastal low pushed northeasterly winds as a wedge front into southern Virginia. Meanwhile the circulation around an Ohio valley low forced westerly surface winds into southwest Virginia and eroded away the clouds. The result was sunshine and a small zone of forcing that fired storms in early afternoon.
Leaving home at 1:30 I motored south on Rte 220 to Martinsville and then west on U.S. Route 58 to check out a large cell just south of the state line. After wandering around the countryside I gave up trying to find a vantage point from which to see that storm. Meanwhile another updraft had developed west of Stuart VA so I rolled to the Blue Ridge Airport vicinity to watch it: Low level flow was entering at the left of the base while the storm exhibited broad rotation on radar:
When the rain settled in I retreated back to Martinsville to examine chasing options before rolling east of town to watch another complex approach. Before I arrived at my preferred vantage point I just had to stop and photograph the fascinating remnants of the first storm (a “mini-mothership”):
Finally reaching my vantage point I sat and waited for the activity to approach from the west:
Turning around to the south I caught this view of mammatus from the southern storms over North Carolina:
After 20 minutes I realized that the most active part of the approaching complex was heading southwest of Martinsville where I didn’t want to return. Thus when the rain approached I pulled up stakes and headed north to VA Route 57 to stay ahead of the precipitation. When I reached Chatham this complex had fallen apart but another one was crossing Smith Mountain to the north so I jumped onto U.S. Route 29 northbound.
I stopped in Gretna for dinner and a quick perusal of my options. I determined that my best choice was to head west on VA Route 40 to check out the southern edge of the newer complex. That turned out to be a good choice as these storms pretty much fell apart while I drove. Meanwhile yet another line had cruised across the Roanoke valley and continued east of the Blue Ridge. To catch a view of this convection I motored north and west to Burnt Chimney where I had this view looking northeast:
A cool breeze was at my back as I watched this, meaning a southwesterly surface wind was blowing. I maneuvered around the countryside a bit for another view and wound up back in Burnt Chimney with this view looking east:
At this point the wind had shifted and was in my face. I concluded that I was looking at the wedge front itself as it approached. When the precipitation arrived it combined with the westering sun to provide this double rainbow that effectively marked the end of the chase:
It wasn’t anything to write home about but it was a chase…and it indeed helped dispel the month-long May gloominess.