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It sucked.

Yes, that’s crass, borderline vulgar, and its use hints at a narrow vocabulary. But “sucked” characterizes today’s chase perfectly.

Just in case folks might forget this was today’s SPC Day 1 convective outlook this morning:va_swody1-march-1

The threat was upped from a Day 2 Slight Risk to an Enhanced Risk for a good chunk of Virginia. Adding fuel to the fire was a Severe Thunderstorm watch issued for much of western VA just after 10:30 am followed closely by multiple Severe TS warnings in my chase area.

After perusing the short term models this morning I determined my initial chase target to be Bedford. A squall line was to blast across the mountains and enter the Piedmont during the early afternoon, possibly firing discrete cells out ahead of it that would take advantage of a juicy environment to rapidly intensify. Knowing full well that storm motions near 60 mph meant I needed to get out early I planned to leave home at noon.

However after watching the radar for a while the storms seemed to be ahead of schedule, the first indication of a potential problem with the morning model solutions. Thus I departed a little after 11:30 and based on the storm motions and timing that should have given me 30-45 minutes of lead time once I got to Bedford. Alas, that was a pipe dream. The squall line was perhaps 10 minutes behind me when I arrived in Bedford. Given a stop for gas and a potty break much of that 10 minutes was squandered.

The next couple of hours involved rapid decision making and maneuvering across rural Bedford county with the rain and wind nipping at my heels. I did stop – very briefly – in a western section of the county to snap a few photos and live stream for literally a couple of minutes as the line approached.shelf-cloud-over-western-bedford-countyWhen it inevitably drew too close I retreated south and east to Altavista where I picked up U.S. Route 29 and dove south to Gretna. There I stopped just as the line arrived with a burst of wind, a spit of rain, and then…nothing. No mesocyclones, no hail, no wall clouds, and not even any lightning.

Instead of a juicy environment forecast by the models that could be energized by this massive outflow boundary the Piedmont was stable and capped. Rather than surface dewpoints in the 60s per forecasts most stations were showing 50s before the line and 40s behind it. And every time I checked the surface-based CAPE values on the SPC mesoscale analysis page it showed the entire region under significant convective inhibition, e.g. capped. (The shear WAS awesome.)

Thus I glumly sat in Gretna for quite a while watching radar as the line petered out and overcast cold clouds blocked the sun. Another stormchaser – Alex Thornton – joined me there for a bit and we monitored radar as a broad area of rain built over far southwest Virginia. This, too, hadn’t shown on the model solutions I remembered perusing.

I finally bade Alex farewell and motored west to a vantage point near Climax for this very unconvective western view:western-view-from-climax-rd

Chastened, I rolled west toward Rocky Mount only to hear to my utter disbelief that another Severe Thunderstorm Watch had been issued that included Pittsylvania and Halifax counties. Those counties had been capped previously and were now under dense cloud cover with dewpoints in the mid-40s. I didn’t buy into that Watch and therefore ignored it, heading back home to ponder if the White family Moderate Risk curse had been extended to Enhanced Risks.

A very disappointing “chase” if I say so myself.

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