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Today’s setup involved yet another warm/wedge front retreating slowly northward. Behind it a plethora of tornado watches marched across the Southeast, including one that crept just north of the Virginia border along the U.S. Route 58 corridor. This was the mid-day SPC Day 1 convective outlook:VA_swody1 (1)

My initial target was the Martinsville area when I rolled out the driveway near 3 pm and dropped south on U.S. Route 220. As I drove I noticed on radar a couple of tornado-warned cells moving north toward the Stuart vicinity so I diverted west on Rte 58 at Martinsville. Visibility was despicable under the wedge with visibilities less than 1/4 mile in most places.

Arriving at a known vantage point near Patrick Springs I stopped and pointed the chasemobile southward. One of the warned cells was aimed more or less at me exhibiting a nice hook echo. This storm had already produced a confirmed tornado near Pilot Mountain North Carolina.IMG_7059

Given that I couldn’t see more than 300 yards I got progressively more nervous as this storm – and the hook – marched in my direction:

Finally I began to see lightning and the ceilings rose a bit but I still couldn’t see much of the base of the storm as it got closer. When it REALLY got close on radar I was ready to bolt:

I watched as the rain and wind direction swapped around. This is a screen grab from a short video clip I shot looking just to my left (east). I THINK this was the circulation less than a mile from me.Screen grab of circulation

At this point I pulled out and headed east on Rte 58 to keep up with the storm. Stopping a mile or so east of my original location I noticed leaves floating down…debris!!

I continued east to the Blue Ridge Airport to get this view looking north at the rear of the action:Looking N fm Blue Ridge airport

With the storm still moving northward I swung back to Rte 220 and zoomed north to catch back up. I stopped just north of Oak Level to watch this lowering that corresponded with an area of rotation on radar:Lowering N of Oak Level

Turning around this was the view of the ridgeline just south of this location showing the low ceiling:Overlooking the ridgeline

Following the action further up Rte 220 I diverted east a few miles south of Rocky Mount but swapped directions after coming across some local flooding. I had to be careful of hydroplaning on the highway in several spots.

My overall read on this chase was that I SHOULD have seen a nice tornado under this storm…but the despicable visibility prevented it. I’m really getting tired of warm/wedge front chases.

Back on the road tomorrow!