UPDATE 7:20 AM, 4/28: Overnight severe weather thread: Serious situation could be brewing for Southwest Virginia
UPDATE 7:20 AM: Here is a link to a CNN iReport of a possible destructive tornado at Glade Spring, exit 29 on Interstate 81. I have seen other unconfirmed reports of fatalities in that area. This was near an area of extreme rotation on radar late Wednesday night/early this morning. Any further information anyone has would be appreciated. END UPDATE
UPDATE 7 AM: The multi-state death toll is up to an incredible 178 over the South from Wednesday’s tornado outbreak, and I’m afraid that’s likely to climb higher. END UPDATE
UPDATE 6:45 AM: The final squall line is pushing over the Blue Ridge now. Once this rather thin but strong to severe line of storms passes, conditions will begin drying out after a stormy night for the region. As of now, no confirmed reports of tornadoes touching down yet in Southwest Virginia, but there were scattered wind damage reports, some very large hail especially in Smyth and Giles counties, and lots of heavy rain (including rock slides that have closed the Pulaski-Giles Turnpike and part of U.S. 460 for a time in Tazewell County). The day may reveal a few other severe weather reports. END UPDATE
UPDATE 2:20 AM: At this time, there are no severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings for the counties in the Blacksburg weather service office’s region. [Soon after I posted this, a tornado warning was issued for Giles and Craig counties.] The intense supercells present earlier have started to fuse together into broader bands and clusters, and overall intensity on radar is much less. Still, with such wind shear present, and unusual warmth and moisture for an early April morning, there remains some risk of severe weather, and the tornado watch will remain until 8 a.m. So the threat is not entirely over — but the higher-end storm outbreak threat appears to be waning. It’s a good thing these storms didn’t roll through at 3 or 4 in the afternoon with peak solar heating instead of late night. END UPDATE
UPDATE 1:25 AM: A strong supercell with an obvious “hook echo” — often indicative of a tornado — is scraping along the Giles/Montgomery county border likely headed up along the Craig/Roanoke County border. The northwest corner of Roanoke County is now under a tornado warning because of this storm, along with parts of Giles, Craig and Montgomery counties, and Monroe County, W.Va.. There have yet to be any confirmed reports of tornado damage in the region, but of course, much of the area is rural and tornadoes touching down in remote areas may not be known yet. END UPDATE
UPDATE 12:30 PM, 4/28: A chain of supercells has been moving through the western portions of our region, generally from Bristol north-northeastward through the I-77 corridor and along the Virginia-West Virginia border. So far, despite several tornado warnings issued for radar-indicated rotation in these storms, there have been no confirmed reports of tornadoes in our part of the state. The most extreme severe reports I’ve seen so far came from Smyth County, where 4.5-inch-in-diameter hail (softball size) and trees blown down were reported. There is a large supercell east of Bristol moving in the general direction of Wytheville that may also affect parts of the New River Valley later. Additional cells in eastern Tennessee will pull through during the night and morning hours. In time these cells may start to cluster together more and perhaps even weaken some, and the major weather threat will shift to heavy rain. END UPDATE
This could be a rough ride overnight. Unseasonable warmth and sticky humidity is providing the fuel for what could be a round of strong to severe overnight thunderstorms, with damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes possible. Warnings are already going up for storms entering southwest Virginia from Bristol north to Bluefiled. I have links at the top with the latest watches, warnings and radar scans, so I won’t try to summarize every one of those on here tonight. Both here with updates and in the comments section I will try to keep everyone fairly up to date on what is developing. The Storm Prediction Center put out a rather strongly worded mesoscale discussion for our region a little while ago indicating that conditions would be “conducive to all forms of severe weather through the overnight. ” Eventually we do still expect a squall line to develop with the advancing cold front and push through the region in the early morning hours, but before then, these individual storms ahead of the line present a risk of some severe weather. Parts of Southside and Central Virginia have already experienced tornadoes (photo here from Goochland courtesy of Andrew Smith, a Virginia Tech storm chaser) earlier this evening, and of course Alabama has been smashed by an extremely deadly outbreak.
Let’s keep a close eye on this. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, go to an interior room in the lowest floor of your home, staying away from windows.