I had planned to trek to Buckingham county this afternoon based on model indications that a prefrontal trough would fire storms near I-64 that would then sag south and east. Instead I wound up cutting short morning errands and rushing out the door at 11 am to pick up my chase partner to zoom toward Rocky Mount.
An overnight MCS muddied the convective waters – so to speak – and kept storms going into Friday morning across eastern KY and southern WV. During a mid-morning walk I noticed a very robust cell south of the Roanoke valley that must have fired along an outflow boundary from the MCS. Upon checking radar I realized this cell had all the CAPE that existed east of the Blue Ridge mountains to itself.
Thus I hurried home, gathered the chase gear, and rolled down the driveway. After picking up my partner we drove south on US Rte 220 and saw this cell pounding Rocky Mount with large radar-indicated hail.
We stopped along 220 to let the core drift east across the highway and then pushed south of town before turning east on a rural route. We maneuvered our way to VA Route 40 at Glade Hill where we then hit the gas toward Gretna to get ahead of the developing convective complex. Arriving at the US Route 29 corridor I realized we couldn’t zoom north as the cell had already enveloped the highway in that direction.
So we continued east of Gretna on Rte 40 before pushing north on a county route. We bobbed and weaved along rural lanes with brief glimpses of a possible wall cloud under the original storm base. We zoomed toward a known vantage point near Long Island VA but were abruptly halted by a “Highway Closed Ahead” sign (bridge construction). In a highly frustrated state of mind I navigated us south and east via more rural roads back to Rte 40 near Brookneal but the damage had been done to our timetable. The storm hit the town while we were filling the chasemobile’s gas tank (didn’t get that done earlier due to the early departure from home).
We did continue east of Brookneal a bit but realized we’d lost position on this cell and likely couldn’t regain it given the lack of available routes east. Still shaking our heads at being thwarted by the road blockage we reversed course back west toward Gretna as more storms crossed the mountains. Along the way we witnessed a mammatus field on the backside of this first storm.
We had enough time to eat a late lunch in Gretna while I kept an eye on radar. When we left there we pushed a few miles north of town to watch another storm approach. One cell tried to form a wall cloud but it didn’t hold together long.
Noticing that things looked more vigorous further south we made our way back to Rte 29 and dropped down to a vantage point midway between Gretna and Chatham. Here we watched as another storm developed a lowering to our southwest.
This looked like a nascent wall cloud but the storm soon gusted out and this morphed into a shelf cloud. We let this cell go by and rolled further south near Tightsqueeze to check out even more convection. While there the storm we had just abandoned intensified and garnered a severe TS warning so guess what we did?
Yep, we reversed course using a rural route to cross the White Oak Mountain ridgeline in hopes of keeping up with this storm. We made our way to VA Route 57 and turned east to maintain position just south of it.
At one vantage point just off 57 we had this view of the storm to our northeast as thunder rumbled continuously.
Not far east of here we had to drop south of the highway since the storm was crossing it. We wound up driving all the way south to VA Route 360 where we continued east toward Halifax. Again we glimpsed what could have been a wall cloud underneath the base but never could find a decent vantage point from which to stop and see it.
Finally we reached the rural areas just west of the town of Halifax where we could see a tremendous hail shaft on the back side of this cell.
With a growing squall line – all under a severe TS warning – now east of us and no clear vantage points we threw in the towel and called it a chase.
Overall it was an enjoyable and productive chase but the 2017 frustration at not finding decent vantage points continued. That luck will change as the season progresses.