While passing through North and South Carolina, I was afforded a grand opportunity by Mother Nature to test my Tesla’s weather radar. Yep, you heard me right. I’m a former airline pilot and have no desire to press through thunderstorm country without a clear picture of what I’m dealing with.
To catch a good view of the boundaries and movement of thunderstorms, I use internet weather from http://www.wunderground.com or http://www.intellicast.com . You can too. Weather radar picks up the reflection from raindrops. Light precipitation is shown on a radar image as green, with moderate showing as yellow and heavy as either red or some other color determined by the weather site. I avoid thunderstorms for two main reasons: hail and the effects of heavy rain and wind on traffic. A Tesla’s aluminum skin is vulnerable to the effects of large hailstones, and any car is vulnerable to the combination of poor visibility, slick roads, and crazy or poor drivers barreling along in close proximity with other vehicles. Just as in an airplane, the best course of action is to avoid a thunderstorm, and radar images pulled up on your 17″ screen can allow you to do just this.
The yellow precipitation area in the bottom center of the image struck me as an area that likely didn’t pose a hail threat (transitions from light to heavier precipitation was fairly gradual, and precipitation for the most part wasn’t much worse than moderate. I chose to drive through it and although there was no hail, the driving was most unpleasant. This was about my limit of what I will knowingly venture into.
Later, in South Carolina, I encountered a nastier thunderstorm on my internet radar site. This one had transitions from no precipitation to heavy precipitation in a very short distance, which meant this was a mean wooly-bugger that could contain hail and all sorts of undesirable trappings. Another problem of wandering into a thunderstorm while on a freeway is that there’s no quick way to turn around and dash for cover. You’re moving with the traffic and only an off-ramp can help.
Notice on the left image how heavy the precipitation is on the right side of the storm (red and brown colors) and how quickly the storm changes from no precipitation to heavy precipitation. Coming from the north (top of image) I would need to leave the freeway before Shiloh to avoid the weather. On the right image, you can see the blue Highway 95 markers running through the storm if you click on the image and view the enlarged version. I also pushed the play button on the Wunderground image to watch the movement of the storms. They were moving from the southeast to the northwest and therefore I would make any deviations to the southeast side of Highway 95.
As I approached the storm area, I could tell the traffic was having a tough time of it because there was red and yellow showing on the traffic speed indications south of Shiloh. No thanks! I have no desire to wander into such a mess with no option for retreat.
The perfect solution to picturing the thunderstorms above the highway map was to do a split screen with the Tesla 17″ monitor and it looked like this.
In Tesla’s navigation software, I typed the name of a town a few miles to the east of I-95 and satisfied with the new routing, I followed the blue line. As I neared this town, I typed the name of another town that was about the same distance on the southeast side of I-95 but was closer to my destination. Lots of county roads here gave me lots of options to swing wider if I needed to.
A look to the right revealed heavy rain over the interstate. I remained dry and more importantly, I retained the option of swinging further left or even stopping and turning around if I wanted.
Once my visual inspection and radar image both confirmed I was past the thunderstorm, I typed in my destination and Tesla’s navigation software plotted a quick return to the interstate highway. I had avoided both the chance of a fender bender and hail, and the pleasant drive on county roads only added about 10 minutes to my trip.