April 25, 2010 Tornado-Warned Storm in West Virginia and Maryland.

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

There was a deep low tracking eastward toward the Ohio Valley and a trailing cold front. I decided to target near the warm front that was draped across the D.C. area. This was the best chance for backed surface winds in the area and be an area for storm development. A storm interacting with the boundary could potentially become tornadic. Upper level support was still decent but not as good as farther south where there was also better instability. I didn’t go to my southern target in eastern North Carolina due to uniform southwesterly surface winds. This day would also provide a test of my equipment.

I drove north from Richmond on I-95 and then 17. I stopped at a gas station and McDonalds just outside of Marshall, Virginia in Fauquier, County. I waited. Storms slowly formed in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. The SPC issued a severe thunderstorm watch. I drifted westward to Winchester. I was expected storms to develop farther southward but the main storm was just to the north of Winchester. Although it was not impressive on radar, I decided to head north on I-81. The storm became tornado-warmed. I blasted north on I-81, then turned east on 51. The storm was slightly right-turning. Unfortunately, the road was narrow, and I was having a hard time keeping up with the storm. I passed an area with piles of small hail on the roadsides. I didn’t stop to take measurements. The storm was to my north. It was losing organization but then showed signs of reorganizing with weak shear as indicated by the “doughnut” on XM as I reached Charles Town, West Virginia. I got a good view of the storm just east of Charlestown at the junction of 340 and 9 at 6:15 PM. The area of weak circulation was about 5 miles to my northeast at time of the image. I followed 340 north east toward the storm as it lost some of its structure. I continued east by Harper’s Ferry and over the Potomac River. Visibility was poor due to rain, hills and trees. I was able to make better time on 340 in Maryland and was able to get ahead of the storm. I pulled off at an exit for 180 (just after St. Marks Rd bridge) at 6:36PM for a better view but couldn’t see any definite structure. The storm again showed brief signs of strengthening. I continued east and pulled off at ?Mt Zion Road to watch the storm and plan my route. I ran into fellow chaser, Jason Foster. We chatted and watched the main storm fall apart. Gotta love a mini chaser convergence in Maryland! I initially planned to head to Fredrick but then decided to go west, then south on 15 to await the arrival of two strengthening storms to the southeast. I waited in Lucketts, Virginia as the storms merged and arrived. Of course, every lightning strike was where I was NOT pointing the camera. The storms were not impressive. I ended the chase as darkness arrived. I had a late dinner at Roy Rogers and a brief visit with my parents before heading to Richmond that evening. This was a fun chase to test the equipment but not much to show for it. I missed the unexpected tornado in North Carolina that evening.

Storm at 6:15 PM

(All images are video stills)

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All images Copyright 2010 William T. Hark