April 3, 2006

On Monday  morning the SPC (Storms Prediction Center) issued a moderate risk of severe weather for the east coast including Virginia and North Carolina. I took the day off to chase through the day as I knew there was a chance of storms early in the day as the warm front moved through the area. As I thought, the storms pushed their way through north central North Carolina leaving behind hail and some wind damage reports through Raleigh. I headed south from my home in Portsmouth, Va. to Elizabeth City, NC. Watching the radar and the storms pulsing some as they started to move into the area, they seemed to have exploded just west of the city.  The mobile threatnet had a shear marker showing 92mph on the northern end of the line just about 2 miles or less from where I was. As the rain started to fall, the wind picked up quickly and gusted near 45mph. There were large bolts out ahead of the main line and I had video rolling on it. Once the rain began to fall heavily, I pulled back and started to move back to the north up Rt. 17 toward Virginia.  As I laid my camcorder down, of course, a bolt flies across the road in front of me and struck a tree less than 20 yards away.

Once back in Virginia, I went to Virginia Beach and picked up fellow chaser William Coyle. We decided the best plan would be head west down Rt. 58 toward Emporia where we would meet up with another chaser from Richmond, Bill Hark. We watched data from SPC for watches issued, and radar and satellite images. As expected, they issued a tornado watch for just about all of Virginia and North Carolina around 4pm. As the storms started to take shape to our west, we noticed that the isolated storms we were looking for were not going to happen. Soon severe thunderstorm warnings were being issued for the cells as they moved out of the mountains and headed our way. As the storms "lined" out, we jumped on I-95 north and hauled it to Petersburg hoping to find a spot to pull over near an open field and shoot some lightning as the storms approached. Well, the storms were moving a little faster than thought, and we met the line just south of Petersburg near Hwy. 629. We headed east trying to stay ahead of the line as the storms began to "gust out" quickly. William and I reached Rt. 460 and quickly turned south. We figured we would stay out front, stop along the way and shoot as the storms pushed east and southeast into Hampton Roads. Well we stopped near Waverly and set up to shoot the last daylight images of the massive gust front as it approached. We shot for about 15 minutes, quickly got back into the truck and headed south once again. Once we reached Rt. 58 and approached the city of Chesapeake we ran into a hail core where the hail was about penny to marble sized. We got on I-64 west and ran into another hail core in Bowers Hill and it was slightly bigger and coming down harder and longer. The road looked like it was getting covered in rock salt. We drove about 2 miles and we were back into the rain. So we ended up going to a gas station on Independence Blvd. and Virginia Beach Blvd. to shoot video and photos of the lightning. The photos of the entire day are below. Nothing to write home about, but good for early April in these neck of the woods so to speak.

Click the image to see the video: WMV 21mb.

Looking west as the storms approach in Elizabeth City, NC. Clouds were growing darker rapidly and you could see the heavy rain in the distance.

A shot of the truck looking west waiting for the storms.

On I-95 going north, we were near Petersburg as the line of severe storms pushed over head.

Looking north on Rt. 460, the storms gusted out and William Coyle and I stopped for some photos.

Another shot of the shelf cloud looking northeast.

Looking west, you can see the massive, and awesome structure of the gust front as it moved in over head near Waverly.

Looking back north as the clouds over took us, you can see William in front of the truck shooting the backside of the shelf cloud.

Back in Virginia Beach, we set up under a gas station awning looking east and shot photos and video of the lightning.

Just out of range for this shot. The main bolt was behind the building to the right.

Space was limited here as we each had two tripods a piece set up with video and photo equipment. I had zoomed in a bit just before this shot as the lightning seemed to have moved a little further east. Of course as I did that, then we get another close bolt that raced across the sky.

All Images Copyright Jesse V. Bass III and

Copyright 2006 All Rights Reserved