I didn’t really expect a late September chase especially since typically those involve tropical remnants and none were to be had. I had just gotten back from a week-long vacation in the western U.S. and was fairly worn out from that. But with a stationary front hanging around plus an upper level low perched west of the Appalachians the shear and instability proved too much for me to resist.
I initially headed east on U.S. Route 460 to the Appomattox area where it looked like storms would fire early before more convection bubbled up in the late afternoon. I wound up chasing weak cells north to the U.S. Route 60 corridor before realizing that I had pushed north of the stationary front. (Northerly low level winds and smooth cloud features gave it away.)
By this time a severe-warned storm had bubbled up near Danville VA (earlier than expected). This cell was moving northeast so I doubled back south to 460, jogging east to Pamplin City where I dropped further south. At Charlotte CH it appeared that I couldn’t make a good intercept by pushing west to U.S. Route 501. Thus I continued south and then east along rural routes. Winding up on U.S. Route 360 I jogged east to Wylliesburg and then south on U.S. Route 15.
Via Rte 15 I finally made it south to the U.S. Route 58 corridor at Clarksville where I turned west to find a good vantage point. A line of several discrete cells – most of them severe warned – was steaming northeastward and I finally found a spot a few miles west of Clarksville from which to observe the northernmost cell.
Here I switched on the live stream feed and happily snapped photos, all the while keeping an eye on storm motions and hail cores to make sure I wouldn’t get pounded:
Meanwhile this was the wall cloud I observed:
A bit later:
As this storm moved (barely) north of me across the Kerr Reservoir a clear RFD slot formed behind it.
I somewhat nervously watched a small rapidly rotating section of cloud as it passed by nearly overhead but saw nothing that caused me to move. (I did, however, release the emergency brake in preparation for a quick getaway.)
After this feature cleared to the north I pointed my attention – and the chasemobile – south to storm #2 on the line.
The hail core on this next cell was rolling directly toward me so after a few minutes I pulled up stakes and motored a couple miles southeast to another vantage point. Here I watched as the wall cloud and another RFD slot approached.
Realizing that this feature was passing by to the south I checked radar and noticed a crease between storms #1 and #2 that promised rain with only possible small hail. So instead of continuing further east ahead of the line I doggedly headed into the crease, encountering heavy rain and “only” half-inch hail which I tweeted out to NWS Blacksburg.
Emerging into drier conditions west of the action I decided to drop south behind storm #2 to check out storm #3. A bit north of the metropolis of Virgilina I paused to snap this photo between the two updrafts:
I never did find a decent vantage point even after pushing across the state line into North Carolina. I thus reversed course back north and then rolled west to U.S. Route 501 where I turned north again toward South Boston. I refueled there and continued west along Route 58 to and thru Danville.
By now it was after sunset but there were more storms erupting across the Piedmont of North Carolina. I stopped west of Danville to watch some nocturnal lightning before pushing on toward home. (Haven’t had time to review any videos yet.)
By virtue of my southern trajectory I missed the solitary tornado-warned supercell that crossed thru the Lynchburg and Appomattox area (where I had been several hours earlier). That storm went up west of the Blue Ridge and wrapped up tight when it encountered the shear zone along the stationary front. Can’t catch every storm!
So after a chase of better than 300 miles and 9 hours on the road was it worth it? Yep! But I was one tired puppy when I got home.