Friday August 23rd featured a cold front sagging south across the Old Dominion. Several of the short range models indicated robust convection and some decent updraft helicity (i.e. storm rotation enhancement) would be present. It was enough to convince the Storm Prediction Center to issue a Slight Risk for severe weather along and east of U.S. Route 29 followed up by a Severe Thunderstorm Watch.
I headed east toward Lynchburg after 1;00 p.m. Friday, looking to intercept storms near the surface front which was progged to settle near the U.S. Route 460 corridor by late afternoon. As I motored along I noticed significant updrafts ahead of me so I continued to Appomattox where I stopped and took this initial photo of cells east of town:
I kept an eye on these and may have spied a very brief funnel dangling under what looked like an RFD cut. By the time I snapped this photo the “funnel” had dissipated somewhat:
This was the radar view at the time:
Not sure this was robust enough to report I shrugged my shoulders, let that eastern activity go, and turned my attention to the convective line crossing the Blue Ridge, heralding the approach of the front.
To obtain a better view of things I drove north on VA Route 24 through the Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park and turned west on a rural route. Finally locating a decent vantage point I snapped this photo of an oncoming multi-layer shelf cloud:
Before the precipitation arrived I dropped south through Appomattox onto more rural roads as the complex received a severe thunderstorm warning. It didn’t look very impressive on radar but the shelf cloud was certainly ominous when I was able to briefly stop and take some more photos:
After this I egressed along several very picturesque rural roads with plenty of open farm fields. But since the precipitation was on my heels I didn’t pause much or for very long until I maneuvered my way to the Red House vicinity. I stopped in the parking lot of a country church with a nice view to the north as the local TV station used my livestream during their broadcast. This was my view of the land- and cloudscape from there:
A sped up video clip (posted on the Virginia Storm Chasing FB page) shows the chaotic motion of the clouds at various levels, associated with the shear along the front itself. There was even some anticyclonic rotation in the cloud base at the top of the above photo.
The outflow was very evident here with gusts of 25 kts or so.
By this time the entire complex had weakened and the severe warning had expired. I was able to navigate my way (mostly) rain-free southwest to the hamlet of Gladys on U.S. Route 301. There I turned south, rolling through Brookneal and then zipping west on VA Route 40 to get ahead of more cells building along the front.
Nearing Gretna I realized I wasn’t going to beat the rain into town so I side-stepped southward to stop and photograph a cell to the west:
This stop was at the entrance to a long farmstead driveway. While I was outside the chasemobile snapping photos I waved to the owner mowing the grass who very soon was pelted by rain from another storm bearing down from the north. Climbing back into the saddle to avoid being drenched I then motored toward home, content to let the relatively anemic looking cells trundle further south. (A couple of them did become severe-warned later along and south of the U.S. Route 58 corridor.)
When I reached the Roanoke valley the chaotic sky conditions were still evident. While waiting for traffic to clear so I could turn left I took this photo of funky scud looking east:
As it turned out Friday’S storms – both visually and on radar – looked anemic compared to Thursday August 22nd. The side-by-side comparison of storm reports and the Day 1 outlook don’t jive very well:
This is even more evident compared with the same graphic for Thursday, 8/22:
Friday wasn’t quite a bust but it certainly wasn’t as active as a lot of folks – include me – were expecting.