2/22/98 Chase Summary by Jim Leonard

From: Jim Leonard (jmlcat-5@IX.NETCOM.COM):

     On Sunday I left Miami about 2pm and headed up I-95 to check out some
possible storms firing ahead of the squall line, which was moving across the
eastern Gulf of Mexico and stretching through northern Florida. About 3:30
pm when I was passing the area of Vero Beach area I started noticing decent
towers to my northwest so I proceded northward. I then turned on the NOAA
radio and picked the Melbourne site. The broadcast at the time was
mentioning a severe cell was moving through southwest Brevard county. During
this time I noticed the storms were visibly not that impressive but I
continued northward, when I began to notice a rainfree base to my west. At
this time I was just a few miles south of Palm Bay. I then exited the
interstate at exit #70 at Malibar/Palm Bay. I then pulled off the side of
the road and observed the rain free feature to my westsouthwest and noticed
that it appeared to be a rotating storm. There were inflow bands comming in
from the east and the south and the base was very low and scud tags were
rising up. The problem I had was too many trees in the area so I was trying
to get an open view of the base, this proved frustrating I was driving for
many minutes through residential streets as the storm approached. Finally as
the storm came within about a half mile to my west I noticed the RFD was
beginning to wrap around the south side of a very low scud feature. As this
low scud feature moved just to my north I saw the beginnings of visable but
slow rotation this was about 5:00pm. As I frantically drove around roads
that ended within a few blocks I found a clearing in the trees while the
lowering was to my east I then noticed rapid rotation and thought at any
time there would be a large tornado. The contrast at this time was
excellent. While I was video taping the the rotation I was hit by the RFD
which was probably gusting 40mph but the wind only lasted less than a
minute. Then the rotation went rapidly N/E beyond the trees so I had to get
back to I-95 to the next exit #71 and drove east to the intercoastal
waterway the time was about 5:25pm and saw and video taped a large white
tube hanging out the back of the storm at this time it was well off shore
and probably fifteen miles N/E of my location. This chase was all taped on
digital video. I then headed back south to Miami, with no idea what was
about to happen only a few hours later.

Jim Leonard.

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