Today I witnessed a truly amazing and frightening natural event -- a tornado right over my house!
At 1:30 pm I was checking out of Lowe's with flowers that I was going to plant in pots for my patio. The sun was out and it was beautiful. I got home 10 minutes later (only 1.5 miles up the road), and my daughter greeted me by reminding me that she had to be at her friends house a little after 2pm. At that point the sky looked just a bit grey and cloudy. At a few minutes before 2 pm, the TV made the warning sound. I looked, and it was a tornado warning for Adams county, specifically 20 miles north of Denver (we are 20 miles SE of Denver).
I went out to my car on the driveway and noticed a few of my neighbors looking at the sky. I turned and saw a perfectly formed funnel cloud over my neighbors' building. I thought it was just a dust cloud. I called my kids outside and told them to bring their cameras. The sight was indescribably beautiful -- a slow-churning cloud that had us excited and mesmerized at the same time. It was around 2 pm at this point.
My son Matt took footage with his camera, and my daughter Kelly took 3 videos with my camera. In the first video we are laughing and it's clear we aren't exactly sure if it's a tornado. The second video we are sure it's a tornado and we very caught up in the excitement and awe of what we are seeing. The amount of debris caught up in the tornado is amazing -- sheets of metal, giant trampolines, lawn furniture, signs, trees, etc. By the third video I finally put my "mom hat" on (duh!) and realize we needed to get inside. I'm yelling, the girls are nervously giggling, and Matt's hair is blowing straight up...we run inside.
The baseball-sized hail starts pounding the windows, but none of them broke (hooray!). My car was still on the driveway because I had all my new plants on the floor of the garage. Car alarms were going off in the neighborhood like crazy, and some cars have no windshield left and holes in the hood, but my Highlander and Matt's Jeep? Not a scratch!
As soon as the storm came it was gone and blue sky and sunshine returned. At about 3 pm, I drove Kelly to her friends house. I immediately knew something was going on when I saw the line of cars trying to get out of Southlands Mall, which is across the street from the Lowe's that I was at earlier. Another tip off was the swarm of helicopters above us. My neighborhood has a builders' trailer and two industrial-sized dumpsters right outside of my neighborhood -- the trailer is completely gone and the dumpsters are a good mile away. It seemed like every emergency vehicle in Arapahoe county was either on the road or at Southlands.
From listening to the news, it appears that there was quite a lot of damage to the mall. Cars were overturned, walls are down, sidewalks have "popped" up, and the Lowe's had propane tanks flying about, hitting nearby houses like torpedoes.
We never heard a warning signal, from either the TV or outside before the tornado struck. And yes, it's true, when the winds are churning it DOES sound like a freight train. We are so lucky nothing more than a few ruined flowers, a scared dog (the other dog was too excited to be scared), and a literal scaredy-cat (she came out just a few minutes ago from her secret hiding spot in the basement) happened to us. It is sobering to think that we missed the tornado's touchdown by less than a quarter mile. I had a friend at the mall, and her car is "jacked up." Another friend has windows out in her house and her cars are totaled. Thank heavens no people or animals perished.
It is currently about 6:45 pm and is gorgeous outside -- I think I'll go plant my flowers now.