Grahame and I set up shop on the side of the highway, as we readied our gear and tried to figure out what the storm (which was rapidly intensifying) was going to do. With these things, one could never tell what kind of mood the storm was in or what it might do. It could go on its current path, or it could suddenly veer off into another direction entirely.
The storm was massive: it had to be at least a good 5 to 10 miles across and the top of the storm had to have been reaching heights over 40,000 feet easily. The cloud was darkening at its base until it was coal black and one could easily se the entire cloud rotating, as supercell storms often do. When we checked the radar imagery of the storm, we were dismayed to see that it housed hail up to the size of grapefruit (and possibly even larger) and numerous tornadoes: there were signatures that tornadoes would be reaching down towards the ground fairly soon.
I was glad that the storm was in an open field. If any house or property were underneath, there would be widespread damage, if not from tornadoes, but from extremely large hailstones, winds in excess of 60 miles an hour, and frequent (strobe) lightning strikes.
We followed this baby for a good twenty miles, hot on its heels (but back far enough at a good, safe distance). Grahame was licking his chops and gunning the engine, so we wouldn't lose track of this beast of a storm. It looked like it was getting larger ... and meaner. We had never seen anything quite like it.
The first of the tornadoes was now on the ground. A classic stovepipe. Dark grey in color, but outlined in orange, from the reflection of the sun, whcih was behind the cloud. It was a beauty. We both grabbed our cameras after we pulled off the side of the road and took several photos. We would probably be submitting them to local television stations or to the Weather Channel, or any number of severe weather or storm chasing sites. We could smell payola, right as rain (as Grahame would probably say).
Suddenly, Grahame squawked, "Oh, shite! 'Tis comin' back!! It's a comin' right for us! " It looked like it was getting larger, but only because the storm was headed ... straight for us!!
We dove into the truck ... and just in time, too, as the rain first began to fall. Imbedded in the rain drops were large chunks of ice that splattered noisily against our windshield. The hail was huge: easily half dollar to the size of a small orange. The sky was turning a deep dark grey-black and the clouds were outlined in green, red, and purple. Blood-red lightning danced overhead; the thunder was deafening and continuous. It was as if the storm had a death wish and we were its prime targets.
~To be continued.!~