July 26, 1996 Florida Chase By Eric Gross


From: Eric Gross 
Subject:      Tallahassee Serendipity

Enjoyed a bit of serendipity here last Friday evening, with a beautiful little
storm that blew up south of town around 5:30.  The day had been hot and humid,
with some juicy dewpoints and some moderately deep convection, but on the
whole things looked somewhat capped, and area afternoon thunderstorm activity
was decidedly lacking.  After work on Friday my wife and I went out to dinner,
and were on the way home around six.  Through the trees I could see a
decent-looking CB building to the south of town, but didn't give it too much
thought.  However, as we passed by an open area and took a left onto a hill,
we got a great look at a small but very classic-looking wall cloud,
cyclindrical with good flanges and a little beaver-tail feeding in.  The heavy
rain-shaft was beyond and to the south-southeast, as the whole complex was
stretched in a west-east orientation, and showing what seemed to be a slow
east-east/northeast motion.  A couple of good CG flashes added the right touch
of drama, and my wife asked if the cell might go tornadic.  There was good
inflow feeding this little monster and some visible rotation to the wall
cloud, but I didn't see any thing pendant from the updraft base and on the
whole it didn't look quite strong enough to drop anything. We paralleled the
cell about five miles to its north for awhile, and in that time the wall cloud
became noticeably undercut and ragged.  Judging the best of the show over, I
then turned around for home, and flipped on TWC for a look at the radar.  The
cell was small but very strong and well isolated, so it obviously had the
monopoly on the local fuel supply.  There was also a tornado warning out,
saying that doppler and visual indications indicated the possibility of a
tornado; the timing on the warning was a few minutes before we had sighted the
storm.  Later reports indicated the sighting of a funnel cloud, but no
confirmed tornado.

Well, I'm certain this isn't too exciting for you "real" hose-chasers who
haunt the plains, but for us North Florida folks sights like this are
relatively rare.  The wall cloud structure was one of the more dramatic I have
seen in this neck of the woods in some time, looking very much like something
I'd expect to see out on the plains, if smaller (I wished I had a camera!)  It
was also good to have an unobstructed view, both in terms of minimal
intervening foliage and terrain (which is common here)  and that the
rain-shaft hadn't wrapped and was on the opposite side from our angle of
approach.

One last note for those who are tempted to take lightning lightly: a good
twenty minutes after we arrived home I was working in my study, when a  bolt
of lightning struck about one  hundred yards away with a searing
flash and a boom that stopped my heart and sent my dog into a barking frenzy.
At the time the sun was shining outside and the cell was located well to our
east-southeast, perhaps nearly eight to ten miles away.  We had heard some
distant thunder, but not a lot (the storm didn't seem to be a copious
lightning producer) and it had never rained at our location.  A bolt from the
blue, so to speak.  So, those of you who might be tempted to think that
lightning is only a threat in immediate proximity to the storm, take note. . .