What a day! We woke up around nine and decided to head west toward southeastern Colorado to try and get on a storm possibility out there. So after getting breakfast, packing up the car, and figuring out a route, we wound up getting on the road around 11am.
We were trying to get to our target area of Campo, Colorado pretty quickly so I was hauling ass out west. We stopped in Ulysses, Kansas to gas up, use the restroom and get some food. After leaving the gas station I saw flashing lights behind me and realized that I was being pulled over for going 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. Fifty in a thirty-five. The best part of that was I wasn't even in a hurry to get to the storm. I had to pee and saw a McDonald's so I was rushing to get there! Oops.
After being detained by the cop for around 15 minutes, we finally were able to get to McDonald's for food and bathroom since we knew it might be awhile before we had another chance.
We continued heading west on Highway 160 toward the Colorado border. As soon as I was out of Ulysses I started doing 90 in a 55. I knew we needed to get there and would be cutting it awfully close. The storm actually produced two short tornadoes while we were still en route, but there wasn't much we could do about that.
We finally made it to the storm and found a good place to sit and wait. After sitting on a dirt farm road for awhile, a wall cloud appeared. And then, a funnel cloud. It kept trying and trying to produce a tornado, but it couldn't get it's act together (Though, there were reports that this funnel actually was a brief tornado. We're still waiting for confirmation on this).
We stayed with it awhile longer and decided to leave to head east to set up for Tuesday since we had a long way to go. We began heading south on Route 287 when we noticed lots of chasers on the side of the road. So we decided to stop. And sure enough, there was a eye above us that was rotating. It was like a this rotating donut of clouds. And then the glossy white funnel started snaking its way out of the clouds. It started off really skinny and curvy and just got fatter and started rotating faster and faster.
It was at this point I realized that I was really close to this thing and my heart started pounding and I was shaking. The adrenaline rush was like nothing I've ever experienced.
Then the tornado got really pointy on the ground and debris started fanning up around it.
It kept getting fatter and fatter, and for a brief while there were multiple vortexes within the main tornado.
And the storm then crossed the road behind us and narrowly missed a farmhouse and barn.
We kept having to move up as the storm got closer to us. Since we were only an eighth to a quarter mile away, we were feeling the heavy winds of the outer rotation. At certain points it was difficult to stand up and move. Tumbleweeds (they actually exist!!!) were flying around everywhere and the dust and dirt was stinging any exposed skin.
As the tornado moved away from us it became wrapped in rain and was very difficult to see for awhile. When it emerged from the rain it was alongside a double rainbow. It was stunning.
Once we thought the storm was finished we decided to head south to get out of its path and headed toward Boise City, Oklahoma. After passing through town I look over to my left and see something in the clouds and rain. I say to my Dave, "uh, is that...?" It was another tornado. This time we were about seven to eight miles away. We waited for that one to dissipate and continued heading southeast to try and avoid getting hit by the core of the storm. We decided to stop and assess the situation and figure out the best way to avoid getting walloped by two storms. The storm we were on was still churning away with the sun setting behind it. It was truly breathtaking. This is what a super cell looks like.
After snapping a few (zillion) pictures we continued east until we realized that we were about to get hit with some serious rain, hail and winds. We managed to wind our way through country roads until we were out of danger. It was pretty stressful driving.
We stopped for dinner in Liberal, KS and then headed to Dodge City to spend the night.
What an incredible day. I can't even put into words the emotions and excitement I felt at seeing my first real tornado. It was truly remarkable. And this tornadophobe wasn't even scared. I was awed by the power and the beauty. Fear wasn't even part of the equation while standing so close to this unbelievable sight. The tornado was on the ground for 26 minutes.
I'm truly blessed and grateful to have been given the opportunity to see such power. How lucky am I?