#vawx A July 2013 Brookneal end-of-chase sunset

For the next-to-last entry in the January chase sunset photo series I chose July 28 2013. That chase proved to be rather active as a pre-frontal trough and then a cold front fired up several rounds of convection over the Virginia Piedmont. After jockeying back and forth through Pittsylvania and Halifax counties I wound up at sunset in the town of Brookneal where I stopped to enjoy the view and snapped this photo:Brookneal sunset 28Jul13



#vawx Smoke gets in your eyes (or something like that)

Sometimes a successful chase can be thwarted by a non-weather factor like that which occurred June 30 2015. Despite SPC issuing a number of severe thunderstorm watches on that date I’d been apprehensive about smoke from Canadian wildfires suppressing the available instability.¬† I ventured out anyway, winding up in Henry county east of Martinsville VA after watching several storms form and dissipate near the Blue Ridge mountains.

After watching one promising cell coming out of North Carolina develop a radar-indicated hook and then quickly dissipate I turned my attention to the lowering sun behind a fading updraft.Axton sunset 30Jun15

Even the sky tint seemed to indicate the presence of smoke but it did make for a pleasing sunset on which to end the chase day. (And just for accuracy’s sake severe stuff did fire…that night.)

#vawx Sunset mammatus displays can be impressive

A nice mammatus display at sunset can be a nice end to a good chase day. June 1st 2011 was one of those days. I had rolled down the driveway early that afternoon anticipating explosive convection given some insane CAPE values (>6000 j/kg!!) and I wasn’t disappointed. When convection did begin several building cells were almost immediately tagged with radar-indicated hail markers. I wound up getting pounded by 1-1.5″ diameter hail in rural Orange county from a storm that built and intensified literally overhead my position while I was watching another cell just to its north.

After the ~10 minute hailfall I wound my way home to witness this mammatus display as the sun sank toward the horizon.1Jun11 mammatus Fburg


#vawx Another early spring post-chase sunset view

Not sure about the readers of this blogpost but this January series of sunset chase photos has at least helped me keep SDS in check!

April 5th 2010 didn’t look promising for chasing according to both the NWS Sterling forecast office and the Storm Prediction Center. However Nature had other ideas as a lee trough east of the mountains provided the impetus for convection. Initially I headed to the Stafford Regional Airport to intercept a couple of cells that went up near Culpeper and chugged eastward. They fell apart before reaching my location and with little else to ponder I went home for dinner.

However a trailing storm began to intensify on radar so I gulped down my repast and headed back out to intercept the now severe-warned cell in King George county. After some neat storm structure views I witnessed this view of the post-storm sunset:5Apr10 Stafford airport sunset


#vawx A busy May Day chase capped off by a nice sunset view

May Day (5/1) 2017 wound up being a productive chase despite an SPC Enhanced Risk that was lowered to a Slight Risk in later outlooks. Given the parameters along with an approaching cold front a squall line appeared to be inevitable. I headed east of the mountains early that afternoon in hopes of catching a discrete cell ahead of the line.

I wound up chasing three different such cells, the last of which cycled a couple of times while I was on it. I crossed the White Oak Mountain ridge line on an eastbound rural road and witnessed this third storm produce a very tight and low hanging wall cloud. A navigational error put me out of range of this storm near the hamlet of Cody on VA Route 40 but by then the aforementioned squall line had formed. I dove south on US Route 501 and then west on VA Route 360 at Halifax to check out a section of the line that had been tornado-warned at one point.

After the line washed over me I headed back west toward home and had this view of the setting sun backlighting a few post-frontal showers.1May17 backlit showers copy

Twas a very nice way to end the day and the chase!

#vawx More sunset balm for a busted chase

Early April chasing in Virginia can be dicey at best and April 4th 2014 was a typical example. Leading up to that Friday the forecast models had looked somewhat promising. SPC then issued a Slight Risk over much of central and southwestern parts of the state in their 13Z Day 1 outlook. But when I pored over the models that morning I didn’t see much in the way of support for such optimism.

Sure enough SPC’s midday update dropped to a “See Text” but I headed out anyway, stopping in Burnt Chimney (Franklin county) to sit and watch. A persistent overcast squashed any chances of bubbling convection so I headed home early. The flip side of the overcast was a gorgeous sunset that – once again – helped soothe the tortured chasers’ soul.Roanoke airport sunset 4Apr14


#vawx A mid-June sunset that soothed the chasing frustrations

A 15th of June chase in 2016 ended with a decent sunset view after a somewhat frustrating chase. A Mesoscale Discussion over northern North Carolina and a cluster of storms transiting east from Galax convinced me to drop south to Martinsville. That convection petered out so I ventured north via rural routes to Virginia Route 40 east of Rocky Mount to await a squall line pushing across the mountains.

Unfortunately very hazy conditions due to high surface humidity rendered moot any hopes of seeing storm structure. Exploiting a weak point in the approaching line I scooted west to see this sunset view from the vicinity of Wirtz on U.S. Route 220.sunset over Wirtz 15Jun16

Sometimes a sunset can top off a good chase day. On 6/15/16 this sunset soothed the day’s frustrations.

#vawx A general thunderstorm outlook, a Hangout to discuss 2017 storms, and another chase day sunset

There is (faint) hope even in January for SDS-afflicted souls here in Virginia. The Storm Prediction Center has most of the Old Dominion under a general thunderstorm outlook both today and tomorrow as a strong low scoots northeast up the Ohio valley. If I can just hear thunder – even elevated – it will help reduce the wintertime blues.

In addition I hosted an online Hangout last night to discuss the 2017 Virginia chase season with a panel of local chasers. Unfortunately several folks couldn’t make it but we who did had a good time. The recorded video is available here on YouTube.

Meanwhile on the next installment of January’s theme of sunset storm chase photos. This happens to be one of my favorite sunsets and it came at the end of a long and mostly unfruitful chase day. On April 10 2015 I rendezvoused in Pittsylvania county with several Hokie students who were also out chasing. We fixated on a convective complex that tantalized us for several hours – without much success at seeing anything – as we wound our way via rural routes to a point well east of the U.S. Route 15 corridor.

We finally pulled off this storm and motored north to U.S. Route 460 at Crewe where we turned westward. After a brief stop near Farmville to check out the southern end of another complex I bade farewell to the Hokies and pushed toward home via Rte 460. Just east of Bedford I had to pull off the highway and photograph the stunning sunset over the Blue Ridge mountains.April 10 2015

The Peaks of Otter are visible in the right side of the frame. This was one of the last photos I snapped before full darkness (unfiltered and unedited):DSCF4017

A nice way to end any day, much less a chase day!!

#vawx A chase day sunset from 2011


, , ,

This sunset photo is from August 25 2011 and was taken from my driveway at the end of a chase day.25Aug11 sunset after storm_r1

I had kept ahead of a cold front that crossed the Blue Ridge mountains, wandering through rural sections of Culpeper county to track the strongest cell along a line. That severe-warned storm smacked my windshield with some large hail stones near the metropolis of Lignum. It then pummeled the chasemobile with high winds, heavy rain, and more hail when I unintelligently core-punched it. I pulled off the road in the Wilderness vicinity amid falling tree branches and almost nil visibility.

After gingerly picking my way through the storm’s damage path – which included a number of darkened traffic signals – I made it home to this sight.

#vawx A sunset ending to an early spring 2017 chase


, , ,

The next entry in January’s non-chronological sunset chase photograph series was taken March 18th 2017. This was a chase day which didn’t look ballistic but had decent dynamics courtesy of an upper level cold pool advecting into the region via a short wave trough. Convective allowing models indicated significant available updraft helicity which wound up fostering small hail and interesting storm structure across Southside Virginia.

On the way home through western Pittsylvania county I stopped along a rural route to enjoy the view and snapped this picture of the setting sun replete with pastel cloud colors.18Mar17 sunset copy_r1

Will this coming March start off the 2018 chase season? (Fingers crossed.)