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by Dan Shell
March 4, 1996
The front passed without the wintry precipitation forecasted by the National Weather Service (NWS) and the almanac. There was even a hint of spring in the satellite photograph for Saturday 8:00 AM, which showed the familiar NE-SW bowed wall of clouds already to our east. Forecast winds were W at 10 to 15. James Anderson reported that a couple of pilots launched at Lookout Mountain Flight Park and spent their whole flights wishing they were on the ground. Apparently, one of them didn't even make the L.Z. and the other only barely did. I don't think anybody else required experimentation to know that it was BLOWN OUT.
Sunday's forecast called for winds to lighten and veer to the north through the day. That, in combination with a wide temperature differential, promised soarability. Chris Pyle launched early (around noon) to search for a thermal he knew must be there, but wasn't. After impressively negotiating a rather radical approach, he was broken down and back on top in time to catch improving conditions.
The breeze was light as the launch rush started. Steve and Kathy Lee climbed out early, followed closely by Mark Furst, Jeff Laughrey, and John Lawton. John's comments on launch, comparing the wind indicators and Jeff's climb rate, were something like "It doesn't look like he should be climbing out like that... CLEAR!"
I was right behind John and apparently missed the cycle, but was able to find another thermal in the gap. Climb was predictably slow to ridge level, then quickly strengthened and smoothed. The variometer indicated strong lift and sink in abundance with maximums around 1000 feet per minute either way.
It was what you'd call a crackin' day. Curly Dunn reported the highest altitude gain with top of the lift at around 3200 feet. From the bird's-eye view, we could see pilots pulling into Henson's throughout the afternoon. Winds gradually increased again until it was easily ridge soarable. There was a wonder wind at the end of the afternoon, but everybody'd had enough and landed by then.
The forecast for this week calls for rain and even thunderstorms associated with the next frontal passage on Tuesday and Wednesday, suggesting the winds will turn northerly again Thursday and/or Friday. Friday and Saturday look cold with even some chance of snow.
See you in the frigid sky!