I had to work Wednesday, and then I was going to start driving out to Colorado. After lunch, my coworker asked me if I was leaving tonight or tomorrow.
"Oh. Drive safe."
"Uh, why do you say that?"
"There's supposed to be storms tonight. Maybe tornados."
I wasn't about to worry about things that hadn't happened yet, so I flippantly thought to myself that I was going to be seeing a lot of things on this trip that I hadn't seen before; maybe a tornado would be one of the things.
That evening I was driving. And driving and driving and driving. My sisters were going to join me for the trip, but not until a couple of days later, so I was in the car by myself. I decided that even if this was just a "boring" state, I was going to enjoy as much of it as humanly possible. You know what? It was not a bad drive. The sun played off the leaves and the grass in some really cool ways, and there were some impressive clouds in the west that were building in front of me and then going over. I could tell that people somewhere to the north and east of me were going to get some storms and maybe even the tornado that my coworker was concerned about.
One storm was particularly impressive. I was just on the edge of it to the south. Let me tell you, those clouds were TALL. Furthermore, the clouds to the north were very dark. Storms are fascinating to me, so I was trying to look at all of it. I could see quite a long ways, because it's the midwest, and it's flat.
Then I started to notice one cloud that was just in front of me and off to my right a little. Huh. That cloud was not just dark. It was black. My little pea brain just thought that it was interesting to see the number of different shades in all the clouds. Give me a little slack; I was also distracted by the fact that my ears were popping, even though I was nowhere near the mountains yet.
Then I started to notice that there were three little fingers of the cloud coming down. Suddenly it occurred to me that I might want to be a little wary of that black cloud. Those fingers were definitely just cloud and nothing else, but it was finally coming together for me. I started to think about all the radar pictures that I have seen when there are tornado warnings, and a lot of the time they show you a spot of "rotation" and it seems to be on the edge of the storm.
So I keep driving, but I have my eye on this cloud. Right before I pass a semi and my view is obscured, it looks like one of the fingers was moving.
Sure enough, when I got around that truck, there was definitely a funnel cloud. It was close enough to see, but far enough away that it was fascinating. I had a little surge of adrenaline, but mostly I was just thinking, "Yes! I've always kind of wanted to see one."
I keep watching. I don't know how long it took me to notice what looked like a black cloud on the ground. It took a little longer for it to register what it was. Debris cloud. That was no mere funnel. Even though I couldn't see it all the way to the ground, it was definitely a tornado.
Now I was trying to drive, watch the tornado, and figure out if there was any way that I could safely pull out my camera. It did start to get to the point though, that the tornado was starting to look bigger and/or closer, and the adrenaline did start to kick in a little there. I wanted out sooner rather than later. It wasn't so close that I was worried about trying to find a ditch, but I definitely didn't want to stick around too long either.
It was really weird. After I got to the point that the tornado was definitely behind me, suddenly the wind was much worse and was throwing the car around. Also it was much lighter. It was late enough in the evening, that I just thought night was coming on. I hadn't realized how dark the storm had made it. There were a couple of people stopped on the side of the road, and I kind of wanted to join them and get pictures, but I decided just to get out of there and go find a place to spend the night. If another tornado was coming through, I wanted to be in an inner hallway away from doors and windows; not in a ditch.
And so it was that I survived that portion of my trip. Who knew then that killer chipmunks were still to come?