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Sequatchie Skies
by Dan Shell
April 22-28, 1996

The dogwoods are blooming all the way up the mountain now and only a few redbuds have shown their color which, incidentally, ain't red. That's at least a couple of weeks behind the usual progress of the annual march of the blossoms, and the big cross-country season is apparently in no big hurry either. The fast-moving fronts go from blown out to over the back and/or cross too quickly and mostly AT NIGHT! Sort of like March. However...

Frank from Michigan, Steve Bellerby, Jeff Laughrey, and I were able to get an hour or better at the end of a blown out last Tuesday. Rain associated with frontal passage had ended that morning but skies still looked ominous. Lift, nevertheless, was smooth under the low clouds.

Wednesday brought postfrontal sunny skies with L&V winds. Several launched and floundered in tiny thermals and widespread sink. John Lawton was the hero, spotting a vulture climbing in front and jumping into his thermal. Bill Colvin was suited up and ready to grab the same lift. The bird bailed just above the ridge but John took that bubble to 5300 feet over launch, twenty feet over a mile.

Thursday and Friday were prefrontal southerly, bringing rain associated with the next passage early Saturday morning. Saturday dawned postfrontal clear and NW, but velocity diminished significantly by mid-day. Many abandoned ambitions of flying to the Great Race party at Lookout in view of pilots struggling for altitude and sinking to the field, but not all. Curly Dunn, Clark Harlow, Steve Lee, and Phil Proctor worked their way to the south end of the valley but couldn't get high enough to cross the plateau. Jeff Laughrey found a later thermal and met them attempting to return. He tried the crossing but ultimately landed in the river gorge. Clark Harlow made it back to Art Matthews' sailplane port near Whitwell. Ned Stelzel, Steve Bellerby, and Kathy Lee enjoyed the late afternoon wonder.

The forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms associated with the next frontal passage Monday afternoon and Tuesday. Strong and gusty NW wind Tuesday afternoon, possibly diminishing late afternoon. Wednesday W backing to SW. Southerly winds bring increasing cloudiness Thursday and Friday and rain by Saturday.