Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A belated look at Sept 11th storms

I deliberately didn't chase on Sept 11th for two reasons:
     (1) I had been to and from Blacksburg that day to provide a chasing presentation to a VT meteorology class and
     (2) It was my birthday and I didn't want to pass up dinner at home that night.

The drawback was missing the convection that fired late that afternoon. Morning runs of the short range models had indicated chances of rotating storms and this one showed up near Radford late that afternoon:
Not long after this two separate discrete cells fired in Bedford county (where I would have targeted if I had gone out) and both had radar-indicated rotation on them, meaning both likely had well-developed wallclouds underneath.

Then later that evening this storm showed up near Gretna (image captured by my son):
Thus deference to my birthday activities caused a "miss" of a decent chasing setup...but, hey, some things take priority!

Keeping my fingers crossed for one more good chase this year.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Tropical downpours and a frontal passage

A tropical airmass ahead of a strong cold front led to an early round of downpours followed later by a sunset shelf cloud. The chase started from Gretna where we were visiting family. I slipped south toward Chatham, stopping along the Climax Road to snap this photo looking west toward the mountains:
Continuing south from here I rolled west on VA 57 and then southeast toward Danville on VA 41, stopping occasionally to eyeball the building convection and compare it to radar trends. The overall complex stalled southwest of Martinsville and the cells I could see were run-of-the-mill showers with some lightning tossed in. Thus I called it a chase early and headed back to Gretna.

After dinner we motored back toward Roanoke and arrived just as the frontal convection entered the western sections of the valley at sunset. My wife snapped a number of photos and these are a couple of the best, showing the coloring and the shelf cloud structure:

As I type this a great lightning show is occurring outdoors. Given that this may be one of the last chases of the season I'll take it!!

***UPDATE 10:15 pm: I neglected to give my wife photo credit for the bottom two photos. I was driving so she snapped a bunch of pictures with my phone.***

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A neighborhood intercept

I did go out "hunting" storms this afternoon to no avail. I had followed the progress of a seemingly long-lasting complex moving northeastward toward Rocky Mount and decided it was worth intercepting. Alas, by the time I made my way to that vicinity the cluster had fallen apart. With the only other convection evident on radar still well to the west I called my wife and we met for dinner back in Roanoke.

When we walked out of the restaurant the western storms had approached close enough that I headed to a local park instead of going home. Setting up shop in a favorite hilltop parking lot I turned on the live stream, the dashboard video, and began snapping photos of an approaching shelf cloud:
Shelf cloud overview
This is closeup shot taken a bit later:

As the storm continued its eastward march across the ridge lines it began dissipating. But as it did so the southern edge seemed to reform a wall cloud on the southern edge of the precipitation which showed signs of rotation:

Not being sure enough of this rotation I reviewed and edited the dashcam video. I decided it was inconclusive but you can judge for yourself:

At any rate it was a chase of sorts and kept me from a total bust this September afternoon.

Perhaps a September chase?

The Virginia chase season tails off considerably after the end of August, coinciding with the beginning of meteorological autumn. The intermittent chases available here in the Old Dominion during the fall typically center around either strong cold frontal passages or the presence of tropical systems (and their remnants), neither of which are available today. However given that August weather showed up for the first part of September I'm scanning the skies and radar in hopes of seeing a strong storm this afternoon, perhaps along the lee trough.

The Storm Prediction Center has a Slight Risk just west of here with 5% probability of severe winds extending eastward to the Blue Ridge crest. Today is a bigger gamble than usual but I'm hoping that radar, satellite, and slow storm motions will give me a fighting chance to intercept a decent cell or two without having to sit by the roadside and broil for several hours today. Home is much more comfortable!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A stint as a WeatherBrains guest panelist

After several days of processing events - and having watched the video and listened to the podcast - I've gained some perspective on what it was like being a guest panelist on "WeatherBrains" episode #447. Mostly it was a bit intimidating being on the show amid folks who are career meteorologists both in television and with the National Weather Service. Given my status as a non-degreed "accomplished amateur" I felt some inadequacy as to what I could offer.

Secondly I wasn't certain what I should talk about. Kevin Myatt - friend and "WeatherBrains" alum who nominated me as a guest - had emphasized my stormchase trips out west with the Hokie Stormchasers...but other than my brief mention of it the conversation never got around to that topic. Rick Smith - my gracious last minute substitute interviewer instead of Bill Murray - did ask a followon question about the Fredericksburg (VA) weather blog, but I could have gone in other directions regarding my weather activities. Hokie Stormchaser co-leadership, chasing in northern Virginia, and collaborating with WDBJ7 here in Roanoke with respect to southern VA storm chasing were all topics that weren't explored.

The main issue I had was one I never expected:  where to look when I was talking. I'm not used to looking into a camera so I found my gaze wandering between images of the other Google Hangout participants, the camera, my notes, and the walls of our spare bedroom I was ensconced in. There was no live face to converse with or look at!! I've thus concluded that I'm not an on-air talent (and have little desire to be one!!).

All in all I enjoyed it, especially being part of a show that featured Dave Brown - the guru of Memphis TN television weather - as the main guest. It was also neat seeing the Google Hangout chat going on between the WB's participants as they handed off parts of the interview and conversation to one another. It was a privilege and an honor to take part as a guest panelist, so many thanks to Kevin Myatt and to the "WeatherBrains" crew!