Chase Report: April 20, 2008 Tornado-Warned Storm in King William County, Virginia

storm video, chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D.


Tornadic storms were possible across eastern Virginia and Maryland Sunday afternoon. There was a deep upper level low centered over eastern Kentucky, decent moisture and backed surface winds. There would be nice low level shear. I was concerned about low instability and extensive cloud. Because it was a marginal day, I held off chasing and relaxed. I was very tired after a three day meeting in Chicago. By late morning, there was a long north-south line of showers and thunderstorms near I-95 through Virginia and North Carolina. The best combination of ingredients for tornadic storms would be in east-central North Carolina. That was too far to drive, but I saw another area of interest in southeast Virginia. I was hoping for an isolated storm ahead of the line. The SPC had eastern Virginia under a slight risk with a 5% risk for tornadoes. I left Richmond at approximately 2:30 PM and drove south on I-95. The line of northward training storms had just shifted to the east of I-95. I planned on driving south on I-95, then turn east to get ahead of the storms. Then I could watch the line to see if any storms become separated or if any develop ahead of the line. I liked the backed winds and higher dewpoints in southeast Virginia. ( View of XM at 2:15 PM (1V); my position is circled) As I expected, there was an isolated storm just to the south and east of the line near Greenville, North Carolina. It was too far to reach, and it became tornado-warned. The severe thunderstorm watch was issued, and it extended to just north of the Virginia border. I turned east on 40 toward the town of Sussex. The line was less-defined but there were stronger cells to my south. (View of XM at 3:15PM (2V).) I passed large areas of flooding in nearby fields. Of course, the storm in North Carolina continued to be tornado-warned. After a few miles, I reached a dip in the road at 3:35PM. Floodwaters from a swollen creek covered the road while several drivers watched and waited. Finally, many of the drivers crossed the flooded road (pic#1 (3V)),(pic #2 (4V)) . This was way too dangerous. Most fatalities in floods are from people driving across flooded roads. I turned around. Route 40 was my best east option. I drove back to the interstate and waited. The line of storms was looking less impressive and there was no sign of storms ahead of the line. I gave up and drove north toward Richmond. The line remained just to my east with a few more storms to my west. These storms were mush and I was very frustrated. I meandered northward. As I reached Richmond, I noticed a developing storm that was ahead of the line near I-64. It wasn't impressive on radar but it had good inflow and potential to become severe if not tornadic. I could easily intercept it. I turned onto I-64 and blasted east. Suddenly, a tornado warning was issued for the storm. ( XM view at 5:45PM.(5V)) The day was not hopeless. Soon, I could see the storm crossing the road (6V) and shifting northward. Visibility was poor due to trees and lack of exits. I turned north at exit 211 and was immediately confronted with a couple of slow drivers and new construction of a couple of traffic circles. I was really annoyed as the storm was getting away. I finally passed the pokey drivers and continued on 609, then more northwest on Old Church Road. I briefly stopped at a clearing to observe the storm. I could see a nice lowering and wall cloud at 6:12PM (pic #1; 7V),(pic #2; 8V) . There was some rotation but I couldn't any debris or funnel to the ground due to trees. I was looking toward the area of rotation as indicated on radar and where a tornado was later reported. Although I was in New Kent County, the wall cloud and lowering was over in King William County. I continued on Old Church Road then back northeast on 360 following the storm. Looking back on this chase, I should have stayed longer to film the storm. At Central Garage, I drove briefly west on 30. I managed to get ahead of the storm but it was dying. After watching the remnants of the storm pass to my north, I headed home. This was a decent chase as I saw a rotating wall cloud on a tornado-warned storm and was able to test some new video equipment. Unfortunately, I watched several people drive across a flooded road. Very dangerous.

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(All images are video stills)

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All images Copyright 2008 William T. Hark