NexRad Puts Terry’s Fork on the (Wx)Map

Sitting up on a TEE, ready for a giant 7-iron

I was living alone on Walnut Knob, MP 152, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, in 1997. On an afternoon walk to a high point above the cabin, I spotted a white object on the horizon far to the north. That afternoon, I brought back my binoculars to figure out what it was. It looked to the naked eye to be a perfectly round sphere, up above the treeline–like a golf ball sitting on a 50 foot tee.

It was the NexRAD tower that, although we didn’t know it then, marked the vicinity where we would someday (since 1999) live, in the northeast corner of Floyd County, and the only such tower in the entire western part of Virginia. We live a few miles east of it, and some 600 feet below the ridge on which it sits, just off Coles Knob and Stonewall Road.

Here’s the Wundergound page that offers data from that tower–including a 24 hour loop of radar, which will come in handy after an overnight snow storm, to see how it tracked when planning the day’s travels while it is still dark, windy and cold. I can hardly wait.

The other thing this giant golf ball brings us is fighter jets. Daily. Usually in twos and threes. And flying at treetop level. They sight on this tower as part of a regular mission over southwest Virginia, where the sparse population I suppose reduces complaints of the dishes rattling on the wall.Enhanced by Zemanta

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’d tee up one of those golf balls in my back yard if I thought it would bring the jets overhead on a daily basis. I’ve often thought about moving out to Floyd just to get under the low level route. When I hear people talk about the low flyers I get all excited. Maybe you can snap a photo of this action some time? It’d help with my therapy.

  2. Con, be careful what you wish for. I live in the general area near Fred and apparently in some military air corridor. I’ve got many pics of assorted jets and helicopters ranging from the Blackhawks to the giant cargo carrying version.

    The low flying jets actually make less noise than those flying at higher altitude. I don’t hear the first one until it’s overhead and passing quickly. That’s when I grab the camera and watch for the next one before I can hear it. Some must be Top Gun cowboys as I’ve witnessed some radical flying as they clown around.

    Fred, have you had any luck locating any info regarding military flight corridors? The flights I see are between the top of Pilot Mountain and Fischer’s View. It’s always exciting while mowing the grass and wearing ear protection. Suddenly I’m wondering what’s going wrong with the mower. Feels about the same when driving in a car. I don’t know who decided the most common times are 9-10 am or 9-10 pm.

  3. We have planes flying under us at Belcher Mountain. It appears they come from Woolwine and then under Rocky Knob and down Rock Castle Gorge. Been less frequent lately. I’ve tried but never have had a camera set up perfectly since the flights are sporadic.