Living in Wisconsin, as I do, you get used to severe weather. We see a ton of snow-storms in the winter and thunderstorms in the summer. We don’t usually see tornadoes, however–they’re rather rare in our part of the state.
I have been fascinated with tornadoes ever since watching The Wizard of Oz. There’s just something about this powerful force of nature that is breath-taking, and not just because it can magically turn Almira Gulch into the Wicked Witch of the West. I thought they were so cool that in fourth grade I wanted to be (besides a geologist or paleontologist) a meteorologist. I even wrote a fan letter when I was 10 to WTMJ‘s chief meteorologist at the time, Paul Joseph. Now, if that wasn’t a harbinger of me becoming a complete and total Geek, I don’t know what is. To his credit, he took the time to write me back, gave me a few book references, and told me the basics of what was involved in learning meteorology. That helped fuel my love for weather and inspire my pursuit of science. I still have that letter, believe it or not, in a scrapbook.
Yesterday, the weather got truly exciting, and by ‘exciting’, I mean ‘potential for finally seeing a tornado at the age of ‘permanently-29′, w00t!’ Trusty Hubby does not call this ‘exciting’. He does not share my same enthusiasm for forces of nature that can create windspeeds of over 250 mph, destroy buildings, flip over cars, throw cows and trucks in the air, and in general cut swathes of destruction for miles. He calls this ‘foolish’ and ‘dangerous’. ‘Idiotic’ and ‘completely crazy’ pass his lips occasionally, too. I cheerfully ignore these comments.
I was prepared for yesterday. When I heard on the radio that the weather might be ‘eventful’ on Thursday night and into Friday, my first visit was to the National Weather Service page for my area, followed closely thereafter by the Storm Prediction Center. I was in seventh heaven when I found out my county was in the ‘moderate risk for severe weather zone’. I was later disappointed when the SPC moved the zone south, but lucky for me, the weather came through.
It rained all morning, dashing my hopes for severe weather, because that kept the temperatures down. Early afternoon, however, the rain moved out, the sun brightened the sky, and the temperature went up a good 15 degrees. The humidity went up, too. It was a phenomenally juicy atmosphere, and I cheered on the thunderstorms that formed and frequently checked the radar on my smartphone. I will never be without an internet-capable phone ever again after this. I finished with one patient and noticed the sky had gotten very dark. One of the staffers mentioned “You should see it out back–it’s black out there.” Of course I had to go quickly to investigate this. Trusty co-worker Derek was outside watching the storm. I immediately noticed the section of the thunderstorm base that was significantly lower than the rest of the storm–a classic wall cloud. Since this wall cloud was only a few miles away, this probably should have been a signal for me to take cover, but it was so fascinating to watch that I stayed. Then, I saw the funnel shape hanging off the bottom back end of the wall cloud. Derek asked if I thought we were going to have a tornado. I pointed at the funnel, explained what it was and informed him we were having one right now. He nodded and said, “Cool!” I knew I liked Derek for a reason, and not just because he is a fellow Cubs fan.
The sirens went off at that point, and we decided the funnel was coming a bit too close for comfort, as in ‘nearly on top of us.’ At this point, we thought it was prudent to take cover. The funnel went over the top of our building an touched down not to far from us. It also dropped hail and two inches of water in under 2 hours–quite an impressive storm. After the funnel passed over, I called Trusty Hubby, and with glee that was almost disturbing to the rest of the staff, I said “Honey! I just saw a funnel cloud! It went right over us!”