2011-04-09 Reports: NC/SC

Jeremy Gilchrist

I headed out of Southern Pines, NC down to Rockingham via US-1 then west on US-74 toward Monroe, NC just before 4pm. It was apparent a backdoor front had set itself up near the NC/SC border and as I left cells were initiating on this boundary as a weakening MCS passed to the north near the VA border.

As I approached Monroe the 1st in a line of training supercells was beginning to to right turn somewhat farther south so I knew I had to find a road option southwest. I chose state route 75 which was just about perfect and that took me to Waxhaw, NC. I was trying hard to cut off supercell #1 at around 6pm or just a few minutes after. I wanted to stay just ahead of the core and get to its south side to see any potential meso/tornado. Unfortunately that didn't happen. Traffic in Waxhaw slowed me and I was just too late and got "cored". I was real worried I would lose a windshield as I was not near any good cover when the hail started and I was aware this storm had a history of dropping baseballs. Thankfully I only caught the edge of the core and "only" had to endure some quarters and half dollars. I drove back north into downtown as at this point I was on a local bi-way called Rehobeth Rd. In town the hail was nickel to quarter sized and I decided to wait it out and instead go after supercell #2 as I was already in great position for that storm heading Southeast.

Once the hail stopped I headed back south down Rehobeth Rd. once again. I knew the next storm would likely take almost the same path as it right turned as well. I had a few minutes so I decided to shoot some of the hail that was quite a bit larger as I headed in that direction. I found some up to 2 inches in diameter or so and that is after a good 20-30 minutes of melting. Sure enough this is when supercell #2 rolled in.

As the second storm moved in the sky grew extremely dark (even for the time of evening it was as sunset is not until 8pm or so now). It also had that famous green color to it. The base was quite smooth overhead and rain free so I was in great shape to see any meso and/or wall cloud, which I did. In fact I was in too good of a spot because sure enough a rotating wall cloud was headed in my direction at 6:40pm. I took some video of it and then knew my only option to try and keep up with it was to head south on this 2 lane road. Unfortunately as I did so (since this is chasing in the jungle out here) I lost the clearings and fields I was near and hit forest. The storm also turned more to the right and the meso passed directly overhead. I wish I was able to shoot this part, but I was more concerned at getting to a safer spot and one more clear of trees (which of course present a debris hazard). As it did the rotation became quite rapid (much more then in the video clip where you have to watch closely to see it) and it became clearly visible. I obviously watched this for a minute but the storm was moving rather quickly so my view didn't last long in the trees.

I tried to keep up with it in hopes for another clearing but it didn't seem any would be found and I saw storm #3 riding the train in my direction also. It would be getting dark in the jungles as it arrived so this where I decided to end my chase for the day as I was very close to the SC border. I headed back north and east and as I did caught the edge of supercell #3's core with some hail once again, but it wasn't overly large and it wasn't much of a problem. Right around sunset I caught a great shot of the back edge of the storm with the sun shining right on it and then as it got dark I decided I would go for lightning on video at 210 fps. I think I caught some good ones but have yet to review that footage. Below are pics from the adventure! By NC standards I think it was a great day!


Wall Cloud


Interesting lowering on the left side of the wall cloud


Large Hail


Some closing in on 2" in diameter (20-30 minutes after it fell!) (sorry for the blur on this one)


One of the largest stones I found (Again 20-30 minutes after it fell!)


This is a blurry video cap because my still camera started giving me crap but again very large by NC Standards! This is the largest hail I have ever seen since being here.


Great mammatus ahead of supercell #1!


The back side of supercell #3

Some footage of hail falling to come soon. Here is a clip of the wall cloud and lightning at 210 fps:

Watch video >

Watch video >
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Great report.....I envy you! I was in Durham and was not paying attention enough to realize what was going to happen and missed everything....you are right, BIG hail for these parts.
Caught up to the tornado warned cell around Gastonia, NC. Thought I was going to get cored as the road system started to breakdown on me. But luckily, I was able to make good time and progress on highway 274. Made it in to Newport, SC and got a nice look at the wall cloud.


Then ended up hitting highway 901 through Rock Hill, SC and managed to find the one clear spot in the town. I stayed here for a few minutes, but it appeared there was another area of circulation right above me trying to form, so I ended up having to book it before I was ready.


Ended up taking a wrong turn on the other side of I-77 and ended up being behind the storm for quite awhile. Eventually, ended up in the Fort Lawn and Lancaster areas, before eventually giving up in Kershaw.


In Fort Lawn

All in all, not too bad of a chase. Ended up having to go through the second wave of storms near Lancaster. Luckily, caught the same side-road as I did when getting into town so I didn't have to face the gigantic hail.
This is a hastily edited video of the hail I encountered:

Watch video >

One more real grainy vid cap of one of the largest hailstones I found (seen at the end of the video from the top). That is a quarter resting on it so you can clear see this stone was actually a bit larger than 2 inches in diameter. This was at least 20 minutes after it started to melt.


EDIT: Upon farther inspection I estimate this hailstone at 2.25 inches or slightly larger when I found it. This would put it at tennis ball sized or larger when it actually fell.
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