Sunday, September 4, 2011

Freak Storm

It all started as a beastly hot summer's day. The Loop was hosting its First Annual Chalk Festival, something I was really excited about. But the heat was too much and I soon gave up on that. Later, after my parents and I visited a lovely indoor Art Fair, we decided to check out the chalk work.

We found a parking spot and walked in. My mom is a big fan of and they had a booth - so she stopped and chatted with them.

I ran ahead, on the sidewalk up the east side of Fitz's. I had talked to some of the artists earlier in the day and I wanted to see their final work. I saw some really stunning finished pieces of art - and I'll post about them another time.

My parents had just caught up with me when we felt the first drops. It was just a few. We stood there chatting briefly with the guy who was working on the farmost piece (almost to Melville). That's when it went from brief sprinkles to downpour. The wind started to blow a little, and not wanting his work to get wet, we ran for the nearby bus shelter. It had benches and a roof overhang, but nothing else to protect us.

My parents sat on the bench and I stood to the south of them. The downpour continued and the wind blew a little. That's all we figured that would happen. We didn't anticpate what was going to happen next.

The wind gusts picked up, blowing the umbrella the guy was working under (think of one of those umbrellas that have a very heavy base) over. We never saw what happened to him or where he took refuge. Then it started really pouring and really blowing... At some point, I realized that we couldn't see the street which was about 2 feet away.

The next thing we know, Mom thinks she saw lightning, but what I saw was blue sparks of something flying into the power lines nearby. That's when we all instantaeously and mutually decided that we were no longer safe where we were. We headed to the nearest structure, which was the Starbucks at Melville and Delmar. The road had flashflooded and the rain was driving and we couldn't see. We were pelted by pea sized hail.

I only think we were in Starbucks for 5 minutes before the storm blew over. The nice folks at Starbucks handed out small towels and we all waited for the deluge to end. When it finally lightened enough, we decided to go home and get dry. On our way out, we encountered Starbucks patio furniture that had blown away, a rattling drain that seemed like it might blow its top, and my mom shouted out at us because she saw car after car with their rear windows blown out.

Luckily, we had parked far enough over, that we managed to miss that particular phenomenon. We went home and changed into drier clothes and reflected on our near miss.

I went back the following afternoon and took these pictures:

Our bus shelter: We were in the middle:

U City Storm

View from where we were standing to the tree:

U City Storm

Another view close to where we were huddled:

U City Storm

The tree that either got struck by lightning or blown over into the power lines:

U City Storm

A view from the sidewalk where you can see the shelter and the tree:

U City Storm

Another nearby tree, blown down or damaged in the same fashion, and the path of destruction further down the sidewalk:

U City Storm

Twin damaged trees:

U City Storm

Another closer view of the tree:

U City Storm

Path of destruction:

U City Storm

Another tree view:
U City Storm


U City Storm

One last look back before I went back to the car:

U City Storm

We definitely realize how lucky we were to only end up soaking wet and slightly traumatized. The weather experts suspect it was a microburst which can have wind gusts from 40-60 mph. I'd agree that those gusts got up there. I've rarely seen a white-out from rain. And i've never been caught outside in a storm like this.

I love thunderstorms - but I like to enjoy them from the safety of a building, not exposed and endangered.

I think it'll be a little while before we venture out in a storm again, even in a car.

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