posted by dave on Friday, May 28, 2004 at 11:18 AM in category daily, weather

For most of my life I've been fascinated by severe weather.

Ever since my father took me out storm watching when I was five years old I've looked forward to the Spring and Summer storm seasons so I could enjoy the thunder and lightning and even hope for a glimpse of a tornado.

In my 39 years of life I've never seen a tornado, but I've come pretty close a couple of times.

Thursday night may have been the closest yet. It was certainly one of the worst storms I've experienced.

My night began when I was awakened from my after-work nap by the rumblings of thunder. It's been pretty stormy here for the last couple of nights, but nothing spectacular has occurred. I turned on the TV to see what the radar looked like.

All hell was breaking loose. A tornado warning was in effect for Washington County, where my sister Neisha lives. A huge blob of red covered most of Southern Indiana and all of the local stations had interrupted their regular programming for what would turn out to be several solid hours of severe weather warnings.

I tried to call Neisha, but there was no answer. I wasn't very concerned because by that point I'd heard that the confirmed tornado had passed several miles south of where she lives. She called me back a little later, as excited about the weather as I was, and told me that they'd be leaving their mobile home to take shelter at a neighbor's house if things got bad again.

I moved to my basement to play some pool and keep an eye and ear on the weather reports. For a while, though I heard lots of rumbling, the radar showed everything to be staying to the north of Floyd County.

All of that changed pretty rapidly though. A new red blob formed in Washington County, and this one was moving to the Southeast, towards Floyd. I called my other sister Dina, who lives in the Northwest corner of Floyd County, to make sure she was aware of the situation. They were keeping an eye on things as well. Dina told me that my grandmother was "freaked out" and that I should be sure to check on her. While I was talking with Dina the hail started hitting her house. I had a few minutes before the edge of the storm would make it to my location so I told Dina I was going out to watch and hung up.

Just as I hung up the weatherman said they'd just had an unconfirmed report of a tornado touching down in Georgetown Indiana. This was interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First, the red blob was still many minutes away from Georgetown, and second, it's where I live. Specifically I live about five miles directly East of that town.

Being the dumbass that I am, I ran upstairs and out my front door to see what I could see. I've always figured that if I'm going to be killed by a tornado I at least want to see the damn thing first.

Anyway, I was standing in the little stone alcove surrounding my front door and wishing that I had a better view to the West. From what I COULD see it looked like a regular storm - the clouds weren't even very scary looking.

The trees were swaying and the thunder was rumbling. I then noticed that the approximately 874,354,468,462 cicadas that had invaded my area lately had gone silent.

That was my first sign that something unusual was going on.

The second sign was this: Every single leaf and twig and branch that was laying in my yard, courtesy of the storms of the previous night, suddenly picked up and flew off to the south. I barely had time to ponder this development when every single one of them came back and dropped onto the ground again.

This Triumphant Return Of The Twigs was accompanied by the strongest winds I've seen in a very long time. I still cannot believe I didn't lose any trees, or that my new roof didn't lose any shingles.

At about this time I had a fairly startling realization. The "thunder rumbling" I'd been hearing was not thunder at all. It was far too steady a sound for that. What I was hearing was the locomotive sound you always hear associated with tornadoes. It hadn't clicked in my mind earlier because it was much softer than I would have expected.

Upon making this leap of logic I became scared of the weather for only the second time in my adult life. Still being a dumbass, however, I did not run back into my basement, stick my thumb in my mouth, and sit rocking back and forth in a corner. Instead I stepped out of my semi-protective alcove and looked to the South - where all the rumbling was coming from.

While the clouds to the west had seemed fairly tame the view to the South revealed a completely different story. It looked as if some painter had gone insane and slung gray and green and black paint across the sky in some fit of artistic rage.

There could have been a tornado hidden in that jumble of clouds. Hell there could have been ten of the things and I wouldn't be surprised at all. Actually a tornado might have been a welcomed sight - it would have helped to infuse some sense into that sky.

By the time this leading edge of the storm had passed things actually calmed down pretty quickly. Very hard rain, strong wind gusts, flickering lights. These things are common during the Spring and Summer.

For some reason I still had power, so I talked to Dina again on the phone. Neisha's phone went unanswered but she'd already told me they were going to a neighbor's house.

I called my grandmother who, as I suspected, was not "freaking out" at all, but was instead relying on her telephone to keep her informed of the weather situation because her power was out.

Based on what I'd seen outside, along with what I'd been hearing on the television, I was now convinced that a tornado had passed just to the south of me. I hopped into my truck and went out to survey the destruction. I also grabbed some candles to deliver my grandmother.

I didn't really see any major damage during my brief expedition. It was just too dark. My street was the only one I saw that still had power. All traffic lights were out. All street lights were out. Everything was dark except for the lightning and the headlights of other cars.

I never did make it to my grandmother's house. I tried four different routes and all were blocked - two by fallen trees, one by a downed power line, and one by a car that had gone into a ditch and then been t-boned by a truck.

At this last scene I called my grandmother again and told her my situation. She was fine. A neighbor had checked on her and she had candles. I also called Dina and let her know I'd be on my cell phone for a while if she needed to contact me.

Once I and several others helped to clear the accident I moved down Yenowine lane further. I was less than a mile from my grandmother's house and I saw that I would get no further. The roadway had become a river, and even in my truck I wasn't going to try to cross that thing.

Still wanting to assess the situation I made my way through the dark and debris-littered streets to my cousin Jeff's house. Actually I made it as far as his driveway and that's it. One and perhaps several large trees were laying across the drive. I parked at his neighbor's house and made my way across the muck to his house. He was fine as well, just pissed about the fallen trees that he'd have to deal with in the morning.

So I went back home. I still had power. I played some more pool and continued to watch the weather alerts on the television. Once the situation had moved to the East I went to sleep.

At about 5:00 AM my power went out for about 10 seconds, then came back.

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