by Heidi Sonen and Roscoe Shaw
The fireworks and the parade and pretty much everything else in Crozet got cancelled on June 30. It seems we had enough of Mother Nature’s own fireworks the night before. Everybody was too busy using chainsaws and hooking up generators and pulling trampolines out of trees to be too excited about a town party.
The storm was the worst wind in our 10 years here. Worse yet, it seemed to happen quickly out of clear blue skies. However, the warning signs were there. The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch a full three hours before the storms came and then upgraded to warnings.
So, the storm wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it came on so fast and the damage was so severe that it was shocking. The meteorological explanation was a “squall line” which fed off the heat and smashed us like an ocean wave crashing on shore.
Actually, waves form in the air just like in the water. This one started in the intense heat of late afternoon. Virtually everyone hit 100 degrees or more that Friday. A cluster of thunderstorms started over West Virginia and the rain created a strong, cold downdraft. The downdraft then raced ahead of the actual thunderstorm creating a miniature cold front.
This tiny cold front had similar physics to an ocean wave and rapidly gained speed and strength. Crozet was flattened like a sandcastle on the beach. This kind of squall is common in Tornado Alley in the nation’s midsection, but the mountains usually keep them much weaker here.
Forecasting squalls is kind of like surfing or boogey-boarding at the beach. You watch the waves develop and try to estimate when a big one is coming. You jump on to ride and some of them fizzle out to nothing. However, once in a while, a wave grows huge and buries your face in the sand and slams water up your nose until you wonder what hit you. The weather is no different.
Despite the hot end to June and the scorching start to July, June was actually the first cooler-than-normal month of 2012. Most days had lows in the pleasant 50s and ten days never got out of the 70s. We topped 90 six times with 100 degrees on June 29.
We had just enough rainfall. With the moderate temperatures and timely rain, we didn’t get dry until the end of the month. August and September are the months where water supplies are most threatened. Our water tables are below normal and the driest at this stage in quite a few years. However, we are in much better shape than the big drought in 2002, so we think we’ll be okay.
Rainfall totals for the month:
- Crozet 2.77”
- White Hall 2.57”
- Greenwood 2.04”
- Afton Summit 2.31”
- Waynesboro 2.23”
- Nellysford 3.50”
- Charlottesville Airport 3.41”
- UVA 3.33”