The title above is the motto for today’s chase. Up until this morning all the model runs I had checked showed a slowing cold front sagging south of the VA/NC state line early in the day. The timing left little room for convection north of the border. Then I woke this morning to this:
After alternately chuckling and groaning (obviously I hadn’t planned to chase today!) I readied the chase gear and checked the latest model runs. Sure enough the front’s southern progress had been slowed so I headed out to chase before noon.
Given that surface observations indicated the boundary to be already south of Lynchburg I motored south on US Route 220 to the Wirtz area where I set up shop to await the action.While sitting there I noticed this juxtaposition of cloud movement:
The top photo looks due west and shows clouds moving south to north. The bottom photo looks due east and shows clouds moving north to south. Thus I was sitting literally under the edge of the frontal boundary itself.
Storms fired along the Blue Ridge and rolled northward so when the rain neared I relocated a few miles north as well, stopping in Burnt Chimney to watch for a bit. Seeing nothing of note and with a few minutes to spare I decided to head south to Rocky Mount and grab a quick lunch. From there I pushed east on VA Rte 40 and dove north on Webster Road, scrambling around to find a vantage point that wasn’t someone’s driveway.
I settled for a commercial parking lot that had a limited sightline. I really wanted a place to check out what THIS radar view actually looked like.
Finally frustrated enough I conducted a rolling reconnaissance and promptly ignored my rule about not pulling into driveways when I saw this:
Here’s another look as the rain engulfed Rocky Mount.
When the precipitation got too close I pushed east on Rte 40. Stopping just east of Glade Hill I watched as the shelf cloud developed greenage, suggesting a very tall updraft behind it.
The shelf kept moving east and I retreated ahead of it, stopping several times before turning south at Penhook. Discrete cells were firing along the southern edge of the line and I wanted to intercept a few of them. I maneuvered my way along rural roads to Callands where I turned southwest on VA Route 57. When that route took me back into the rain I worked my way east to VA Route 41 and wound up catching a glimpse of a wall cloud just before it became rain-wrapped.
This was the pattern to be for the remainder of the chase as cells would fire and almost immediately become rain-wrapped. I sat through one storm just north of Danville to try to gain position on the next one but the rain filled in quickly. Thus even though I saw this circulation on radar just to my southwest I never found a place where I could see any features.
I wandered along rural routes southward toward the US Route 58 corridor not seeing much of anything other than rain. When I finally got there I saw that one storm – probably the one with the circulation that I missed seeing – was now tornado warned but was already over the town of Halifax. I did a quick intercept vector and realized that I was at least an hour from catching up to the storm given available road directions and the storm speed. Given the copious amount of rain involved I wasn’t convinced I would see anything anyway so I punted.
There were, however, more cells going up over North Carolina and moving northeast so I drove south to the Semora NC area to check them out. After dithering about a bit I witnessed a wall cloud under a developing storm.
When I followed this feature to another vantage point only 5 minutes away the rain had completed filled in around the wall cloud, rendering it all but invisible. Also I noticed on the NWS Raleigh radar velocity view that the cold front was already south of this storm and moving further south into North Carolina. At that point I made the command decision to pull off the chase given the trajectories plus the very wet atmospheric environment.
Pretty busy chase for a day that I thought would be a quiet one at home!