I realize that as I type up this blog, it's no more than 24 hours after writing a blog of how to stay safe in severe thunderstorms, and this may bump and grind against some of the suggestions I made. For the record, I completely support being safe during severe thunderstorms. However I still support storm chasing (as long as it's in a safe manner) because unless we get up close and personal with storms and severe weather, we won't learn about them!
So at about 2 p.m. Wednesday I hit the road, with my WeatherBug Application on the Blackberry, my point and shoot camera, prior knowledge of what to expect for severe weather, and a road map.
Immediately I had a choice to go north or south. At a little after 2 p.m. Wednesday there were two storms firing close to Burlington. One was approaching Milton and the other, Vergennes. I decided to heat south.
Driving down Route 7 I ran into my first storm between Ferrisburgh and Vergennes. Very heavy rain and pockets of pea-size hail hit my car as I drove further south to the intersection of 22-A and 7. There I got two more pockets of pea-size hail and some very minor flash flooding on a secondary road that had water running across it.
Then the excitement really got kicking. I saw a warning pop up for southern Chittenden county so I headed north. It was a beautiful sight, the sun coming out in between storms and dark skies surrounding me. For some that may be scary, but I knew the chance of tornadoes was very minimal Wednesday and that at most I'd see some gusty winds and hail.
Coming back north through Ferrisburgh I caught a beautiful glimpse across Lake Champlain as the storm was coming in. I found a spot in a church parking lot, pulled in, shut the car down, turned the camera on, and started getting pictures.
The panoramic came out 'ok'. The right hand side is a little off but thought I'd still share...
As that brighter-colored cloud started getting closer and closer, I decided to hit the road again. That cloud is called a Roll Cloud. It was out along the gust front and shelf cloud, the leading edge of this strong thunderstorm. At times I pulled off the road again to snap pictures as the clouds got closer and closer.
I eventually pulled off into a blueberry farm in Charlotte, VT where that dark, low cloud was going. Immediately when I pulled in the hail started coming down hard. At first it was just hail, no rain. Then about 30 seconds in heavy rain came in and the hail dwindled. The size of the hail at first was about the size of marbles. Maybe a half-inch to two-thirds of an inch in diameter. With the rain the hail was smaller, probably pea-sized. I shot some video of the event too, which you can see on this page.
All in all it was a good day to hit the road and watch the storms form and pass by. You should have seen me, I was like a little kid on his way to Chucky-Cheese (if kids still go there). Or maybe in today's society I was as happy as a kid on his way to the Apple Store for iPads. Anyway, I really encourage safety in these situations. I never left my car, shot video and pictures from inside. I constantly checked to see if any warnings included tornadoes, and made sure I pulled over when the rain/hail was too much.
-Meteorologist Steve Glazier