I have to admit, I didn’t like the feeling of driving up my street this morning to do this flight. Thankfully, no homes were badly damaged, but the number of trees down and volume of visible debris was unsettling. As this damage began to occur, I was in front of my largest window that became white with the blinding wind, rain, and hail…unsafe…I raced downstairs to warn my house residents that we needed to get to the basement…but as it turns out I was home alone.
As this event began to unfurl, I was studying the radar, trying to pull up satellite images, and wondering what this storm would bring. When a report over emergency radio came that an experienced storm spotter had seen a funnel cloud in the area of 94W and 23. I didn’t doubt it for a moment. It was go time. Scanning the sky to the South, the clouds looked dark and ominous, but typical of a large thunderstorm. When I stepped outside clutching my hand-held scanner in the light wind-driven rain, the air told a different story. There was certainly unconcentrated cloud rotation at low level just to the NW, almost overhead…definitely a cause for concern. I went back inside to get the rest of my gear.
Moments later, the downburst hit. The intense rain poured through my open windows as I worked to close them…and then hail appeared, it was pea or nickel-sized. That was the cue I was trying to discover by satellite. We were under a super-cell high enough to freeze rain on a day when the heat index was unbearably hot. That was even more cause for concern.
I now became worried for my other house occupants who I feared were asleep on the second floor. Reaching that level, I heard an alarming sound. The balcony door facing the storm was holding back a strong wind…and when it does this it lets an erie vibration roar as some air slips through. It was screaming with a loud intensity that I’ve never heard to be this powerful before. During these moments trees were toppling in our neighborhood.
Scrambling my gear to cover this storm, I headed out into the wind and rain, but only a block away from my house I hit a deep puddle that caused my car to stall. I spent the next 20 minutes there scanning the sky, and listening to reports on radio that we were in a tornado warning, and that there were trees down on 9th Ave and 6th Ave N…restricting access to the hospital.
When my car started again, I moved into the damaged area, and was taken aback at what I discovered. Along with magnificent trees that withstood the years of history in our town, and were now toppled into the street, I found vehicles that had been crushed…emergency services that had gone into action…and a good samaritan with a chain saw went directly to work to free our busy 9th Ave from a tree that was obstructing traffic.
When I returned home, I found there was neither electricity nor internet. Hours later…I feel we were very lucky to be spared from the ultimate dangers a storm like this can bring.
In the above photo, there are two trees down. One is easy to see, the other not as much. (Frame left and frame right) Hester Park has several trees down and is perhaps the epicenter of damage. Only 24 hours before, I was there doing a helicopter training flight. Change can come so fast. This image was captured in a dawn flight approximately 12 hours after the event.
Sidebar…third weather story in a row I was completely drenched in rain…I had to laugh a little as a metro bus rolled past and sprayed me with water in one of the closing shots…would have loved it more if the camera was fully enclosed, and I could have filmed the “splash”…
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