I don’t have to chase storms. They chase me.
I have often wondered about those people who take off during a storm and see how close they can get to a tornado. It always seems as though they are tempting fate, and if they get hurt – or killed – they are asking for it. I doubt their insurance covers such rash activities.
Of course, as a news reporter, I have to admit having chased a storm or two, looking for a good picture for the newspaper.
But, most of the time I haven’t had to chase the storm. They chased me.
Allow me to elaborate.
I trace it back to that fateful day in June of 1968. The day I moved to Minnesota. The day the town of Tracy was destroyed by a tornado, as I drove by it. That storm seemed to have followed my family all the way from Colorado.
From that day, the list goes on and on. Let me list just a few.
We lived in Enderlin, N. D. in 1975 when the area was hit with 21 inches of rain over two days - and softball-sized hail - and suffered a week-long flood after that.
We were vacationing in Florida once when a huge storm hit the state and literally flooded out the cabin we were staying in – and did major damage to Disney World and the other parks. I think it is the same storm that was the basis for the movie “The Perfect Storm.”
Driving through Texas once after a thunderstorm I glanced out my side window to see a tornado paralleling my line of travel. It was not very far off and brilliantly lit up by the sunlight behind it.
It wasn’t my only brush with a tornado.
One very stormy Tuesday night I tried to drive our finished newspaper pages to a printing plant in Slayton. There were thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings out all over Minnesota. It turns out I was driving through the Chandler and Lake Wilson area just moments after a tornado had gone through those two small towns. And I mean just moments after.
The same thing happened again. Driving with friends on I-90 one day, we turned north to go to Glencoe and just narrowly averted being in St. Peter at the exact moment it was being hit hard by a tornado.
Then there was a night in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. No, it wasn’t the storm that caused the famous tree ‘blow down.’ But it was a tremendous storm that made us wish our tent came complete with a basement to hide in.
Then in 2007, our camping area along the Whitewater River near St. Charles was washed away when 18 inches of rain caused massive flooding. We left just hours before the river left its banks.
There are plenty more examples, but you get the picture. Which brings us to the present.
Last week I had to go north to Walker for a newspaper meeting and conference. We left on Wednesday, June 23, and sure enough, we watched a storm develop off to the west. Then the next day we had to get off Leech Lake as a thunderstorm came in off the lake and dumped a ton of rain on the area.
Friday, as we left, a huge black – and dark green – cloud bank followed us south, but we managed to outrun it. The thunderstorm hit towns just 20 minutes after we had gone through them.
Friday night we left southwestern Minnesota and headed back to Blue Earth.
For the second time that day, a huge dark storm cloud bank formed and literally chased us. This time we couldn’t outrun it. It grew and stretched from Marshall to Albert Lea – which was, of course, our exact path of travel.
We made it to Jackson before seeking shelter for an hour from the winds, heavy rain, hail and threat of tornados.
Eventually we made it back to Blue Earth, our path lit up all the way with the nearly continuous lightning.
In Blue Earth, people were just getting out of their basements after the tornado sirens had gone off, but found no damage other than flooded streets and some basements.
Once more I had survived being chased by a storm.
I didn’t have to wait long for the next episode in this saga. It came the very next night, with storms once more raging through Faribault County.
The chase is on.