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                   Monday, June 16, 2008 - 11:55PM

June 16 severe storms/hail

By DAN ROBINSON
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I finally deviated from my 'stay in the Charleston area' chase strategy that has been working so well lately, and probably should have stuck to it tonight. I was drawn away from town by a persistent supercell in the southern coalfields that displayed a long-lived velocity couplet and hook on radar (and eventually was tornado-warned for much of its later life in southern WV). When I finally caught it on I-77 near Ingleside, it was done producing even lightning, much less anything else. It was very high-based when I finally got a look at the southern end of it, and no tornado reports showed up in the LSRs. I slowly made my way back north, sampling the cores of various cells that popped up around Beckley, Oak Hill, Fayetteville, Gauley Bridge and Belva. The largest hail I encountered was a 45-second long burst of quarter-sized stones on Route 16 near Fayetteville.

HD EXPEDITION VIDEO: Hail on Route 16 near Fayetteville

As I made my way back toward home at sunset, radar indicated that I was probably missing quite a show back in Charleston as several isolated thunderstorms developed and passed just north of town at dusk. With the fading daylight, frequent lightning and strong updrafts surrounded by clear skies, I can only imagine what the scene from Fort Hill to the north must have looked like. I caught a glimpse of it near Montgomery as the low cloud deck cleared, revealing a white cumulonimbus tower nearly overhead against the deep blue twilight sky, with lightning bolts flickering outside of the cloud. It was spectacular, and of course I stopped to try for a few shots. But the low level cloud deck had other ideas, quickly reenveoping the scene and hiding it from my view. Had I stayed home, I probably would have filled a memory card with that display.

I guess 2008 continues to be the year of the stay-at-home storms. I've been doing best so far by resisting the urge to go for something far away (and saving quite a bit of gas money), but it's hard to stick to that plan when hook echos start showing up within striking distance.

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