Well, yesterday dawned brimming with possibilities for some strong to severe thunderstorms across the Florida panhandle and south Georgia. With action so close to home, I couldn't just sit there, so after church it was chase time. By noon the main mass of storms was still back in LA/MS/AL, but conditions were looking ripe for some activity to break out in advance of this area. Decided to set up across the Georgia line in the vicinity of Bainbridge, where decent N/S and E/W roads meet. Visibility was initially not very promising, with the normal complications of hilly terrain and lots of trees made worse by a heavy deck of low clouds -- if something went up, there was a good chance I might not catch it. After noon some spotty clearing began where I was and to the north, and the air was getting really juicy. As it turned out, I had set up too far north, for a line of towers was going up just to the south, stretching on a rough WSW/ENE line right around the GA/FL border; the poor visability hid the developing towers just long enough to keep me from getting an early jump. Went south on US 27 out of Bainbridge, coming in behind a nicely developing cell located to the southeast. Got a glimpse of a great dome-like anvil top glaring white in the sun before clouds obstructed my view. The precip shaft was getting an ominous HP look to it, and I couldn't identify an updraft base, so I assumed it was either wrapped or on the other side of the SE moving rainshaft. Didn't see much lightning. After crossing back over the FL border I sighted something resembling a very thin, faint, nearly translucent rope-stage funnel cloud, right on the outflow boundry. Since I could not see the upper end of the tube connecting to anything, I thought it might be scud -- but it persisted and didn't look or behave like scud caught up in the gustfront. The tube appeared to be bending with the outflow. Hilly terrain and trees prevented me from getting a view of the horizon, to see how far down it extended. It grew progressively fainter, and after a couple of minutes I could no longer make it out. I'm still not exactly sure of what it was, perhaps some transient vortex associated with shear along the outflow boundry; perhaps just scud. In any event, by this time the cell was clipping east Tallahassee and dropping quarter-sized hail, and a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued. Unfortunately, the cell was moving SE into Jefferson county and into a forrested area with few good roads, so I gave up the tail chase. Another cell had formed just to the WNW, and I toyed with turning west onto US 90 and getting out ahead of it, but a quick inspection showed this cell to be little more than garden variety. So much for round one; went home and took a break, ala TWISTER :) The first line of storms moved to the SE and largely played out by mid afternoon, but the larger area of rain moving out of LA/MS/AL was now coming into the western Florida panhandle. Lines of strong storms were developing from mid AL/GA and propigating southwards, and a watch box was up across SE AL and SW Georgia. As late afternoon arrived it looked to me like the activity should continue to develop southwards, and that once again Bainbridge offered a good intercept point. Back on the road, this time with the wife at the helm. Visability was again poor, with lots of high level and low level clouds. Sighted a promising-looking tower complex going up to the northwest, with a dominant tower having a bulbous, mushroom cloud-like top -- right where I expected to find a tail-end charlie! Lost view but proceeded north on US 27. Noted several smaller TCU to the WNW, with pronounced bending of their tops off to the NE -- this boded interesting things, for there was some obvious low to mid-level shear out there. The overcast was thickening rapidly by now. Across the GA border and just north of Attapulgus (I *love* that name) I sighted what I thought was a shelf cloud dead ahead. Couldn't see much for the hills and trees, but as we crested a ridge it became obvious that it wasn't a shelf cloud, but a long, flat beavertail sweeping in from the west and feeding into a rotating wall cloud about a mile to the NE. My wife (who has lovingly endured my interests with severe weather) immediately exclaimed "That's a wall cloud! I recognize that from the videos! Wow!" It was indeed a wow, especially since in this part of the country you are rarely able to see such things. The wall cloud was a large, inverted bowl, with the beavertail wrapping in from the south and the striated northern flank of the updraft spiraling up in into a beautiful vault. Temporaily lost sight of the base of the updraft behind trees as we dropped down off the hill top, and when we topped the next rise I could plainly see three conical-shaped cloud lowerings extending down from the wall cloud, and rotating about a common axis. I checked myself to make sure they weren't scud, but they persisted and continued to lower, extending about a third of the way to the ground. Unfortunately (terrain be cursed) I couldn't see the ground beneath the wallcloud, to see if there was any visible evidence of circulation on the ground. Lost sight of the updraft base again, and began seeking a place to pull off. Rising to the top a good ridge, Linda pulled off to the side. From this viewpoint we could see the massive rainshaft just to the north and northeast, very purple/black. The cell was moving off to the east, perhaps just north of east, and the wall cloud was now about a mile to my east. Right as I got out of the car an almost simultaneous triple brace of brilliant CG struck about two miles ahead, coming out of the region bordering the rainshaft. Mindful of being exposed on a hilltop (fotunately there was a stand of high pines competing for being a lightning rod) and I ran to the edge of a fallow field for a better view. By this time the cloud lowerings were still present but greatly diminished, and I could see no sign of a vortex reaching the ground beneath the updraft. The updraft base continued to rotate, but within a period of five minutes it was undercut by outflow. Lightning was now regular and getting closer, and the rainshaft looked to be wrapping more this way. Time to get out of Dodge. Continued north on 27 into Bainbridge, just catching the trailing skirts of the rainshaft and having several CG strikes within a mile of us. Toyed with the idea of either running north further to see if there was another cell up the line, or heading east on 84, pacing this storm as it moved eastwards. Visibility, however, was garbage, and it was beginning to get dark, and the thoughts of continuing a chase in those conditions with HP storms about wasn't too inspiring. Called it a day. Friends in the Bainbridge area later reported brief, small hail in association with the storm. This was my first glimpse of decent convection since late last summer, and its return was very welcome! The wall cloud was absolutely beautiful, and if I stress that too much it's only because SE chasing rarely affords one such sights. Frustrations with terrain and visibility do get old, and one day I dream of being able to chase where the land is open and flat and the horizon is actually visible :) Here's wishing everyone happy hunting . . .
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