It wasn’t a ballistic setup nor were there any severe warnings involved but today wound up being a very nice chase across the Piedmont of Virginia. The SPC had eastern Virginia under a Marginal Risk when I set out:
After I left home SPC upped it to a Slight Risk in North Carolina centered on the I-95 corridor and added a Mesoscale Discussion for that area later in the afternoon. I wasn’t planning on heading that far so I kept an eye on developments just east of the mountains.
Originally I targeted a cell slowly moving northeast from the Martinsville area so I rolled down U.S. Route 220 to Rocky Mount where I turned east on VA Route 40. Keeping an eye on radar and on the updrafts I wound up in Pittsylvania county via rural routes east of the convection. However when I finally reached a decent vantage point I realized that this action was firing over the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge and then weakening as each individual cell slowly moved out over the Piedmont.
When I realized I was grasping at convective straws I cast around for other activity. There were plenty of strong storms firing along I-40 in North Carolina but they were moving mostly east, not north toward the Virginia state line. Finally I noticed on radar a strong cell west of Bedford that was slowly traversing southeast. To intercept it I zoomed north on U.S. Route 29 and turned toward Rustburg, stopping on the side of the road just west of the town:
With broad rotation evident on radar I could see a lowering under the storm’s base but couldn’t get a clear photo from where I sat. As the storm developed and moved southeast I scooted over to U.S. Route 501 and dropped south to the metropolis of Gladys where I pushed west to a vantage point on a rural route:
The broad rotation was still evident on radar as was a lowering with an apparent inflow tail:
The surface winds at my location were flowing into the storm so my conclusion was that this feature was indeed a wall cloud at this point.
When the rain approached I retreated back to Rte 501 and dropped south a few miles to the Brookneal airport where I could see the scope of the approaching cell:
While here I heard the first thunder of the day as the cell marched toward me. At this point the lowering was beginning to look more like a shelf cloud ahead of a radar-indicated hail shaft. I contemplated letting the storm wash over me here (a “static core punch”) but I concluded that I could keep ahead of it and intercept it again.
Jumping back on Rte 501 just ahead of the rain I maneuvered through the town of Brookneal and rolled east on VA Route 40. I caught glimpses of a nice-looking shelf cloud to the north before I found a convenient graveyard with an open view in that direction:
Here I decided to perform that static core punch as the road system further east was a bit more challenging. Chasing solo made me think twice about trying to navigate that territory so I hunkered down to see if any hail would come my way. But just before the precipitation arrived I caught a view of the approaching rain curtains to the west:
The rain cleaned the bug juice off the windshield but no hail rattled the chasemobile. So when the rain lessened I turned back west for home, leaving the storm for others to follow further east.