These last pictures were taken
through my car window. I had to point the camera vertically to get the tornado in my
viewfinder. I was nearly under it as I took these last few photos. Ever wonder
what a tornado looks like looking up at it? It was clearly roping out at the end of
these photos as I photographed from beneath the spinning funnel. Debris was flying
around my car and the winds were getting very strong pushing and tugging on the steering
wheel. I decided I could no longer stay safely where I was and I had to do
something quickly, so I put my safety plan in action immediately.
I literally drove my car into a very
deep ditch next to the road. The ditch was about 6 feet deep which put me and my
Honda Accord well below ground level. Dirt and small branches pelted my car from
above as I opened my car door to see where the tornado was at. It was passing just
behind my car about 100 yards, but the debris was falling on top of me. My eyes got
full of sand and I found it difficult to view the tornado as it dissipated while crossing
hi-way 34. I was shocked to see as the tornado crossed the road, (now mostly roped
out) a UPS truck drove right through the debris directly under the funnel. It didn't
appear to even rock his truck and at that point the tornado was gone from site back up
into the cloud.
Up to this point in my chasing, this is the closest I
had ever gotten to a tornado. Had this been a bigger and more violent tornado,
I would have left much sooner when I saw it moving. I also knew it was roping out so
I gambled more than I normally would have at the end of the chase. This can be a
mistake because many times a tornado reforms within seconds of this rope out stage.
Tornadoes have been known to rope out and then reform with even more violent winds in less
than a minute. There is nothing safe about being this close to a tornado; your life is at
great risk.If you choose to gamble with a tornado be prepared to die because you just
rating will this tornado get? I figure it couldn't be more than an F1 because I saw
it go through the trees and it only snapped off small branches and tore off leaves.
It may have been greater earlier, but I doubt that too as it seemed to loose all its power
when it hit the trees, as though they knocked the steam out of it. Since the Fujita rating
is based on damage and we didn't have any damage to view, we will never know.
I have always made it a practice to make sure I
have ample ditch or shelter near me when I chase and today I was glad I had made plans
before the tornado had even sat down as to what I would do if I got closer than I planned
on. If you are chasing tornadoes and not constantly thinking about escape routes and where
you might find shelter, you may not live to regret it.