I was sitting at my desk around 4:15 Friday afternoon when my phone vibrated next to me. My mom texted me to tell me a storm was coming and to be careful driving home. We have storms all the time, so I knew it must be a big one for her to warn me.
I got up from my desk to look out the window and noticed the western sky was getting dark. It was sunny out, but there was a certain look to the clouds, that unmistakable warning that a storm is on the way. I pulled up the weather map on my phone to see this:
Um, yikes! Right? Within the next fifteen minutes, there were thirteen severe weather alerts. 13! I love the average, run of the mill thunderstorm. Love them. I love watching the sky grow darker, the clouds twist and turn, and waiting for the first raindrop and bolt of lightening. It's a thrill to me. But honest to goodness, I had this unshakeable feeling this would not be an ordinary storm. I don't know how I knew (aside from the scary radar. Eeeeek), but I just knew.
As 5:00 came closer, the skies darkened. The clouds coming from the west seemed to grow a deeper shade of grey by the minute. My mom had called and said the storm was hitting there and had completely devastated the backyard, trees were down around town, and there was no power. My office building was nearly empty. I debated staying and waiting out the storm or making a run for it and try to get home before the worst of it hit. The sun was still trying to peek through the clouds, so I took a gamble and decided to leave.
I ran to my car. I could literally see the clouds inching toward me. I pulled my car onto the interstate as fast as I could. Once I was driving I could see why my mom warned me not to drive. I wish I had taken a picture of the clouds. They were standing and stretching in the sky and as black as night. To say they were menacing or frightening would be the understatement of the century. I have never in my life seen clouds that looked like these. It was like living an episode of Storm Chasers. I was expecting an F5 tornado to drop any second.
The storm that spanned the entire state of Ohio was slowly narrowing in on Columbus. It seemed to have picked up speed, and I knew it was going to hit any minute, and I was still far from home. As I passed the skyscrapers downtown, I made a split second decision and veered my car onto the closest off ramp. Without any care for traffic laws, I swerved past cars taking shelter under overpasses and pulled into a shopping center.
I got so nervous I started shaking uncontrollably, and my hands went completely numb. I could hardly turn the steering wheel. While waiting for a light to turn green, I remember looking up at the sky and watching the clouds swirl and rotate. There were constant streaks of lightening everywhere. I found a parking spot and ran inside the Barnes & Noble where I met the Pioneer Woman just three short months ago. Pedestrians and shoppers ran inside to take cover. People were glued to the windows, everyone agreeing they had never seen anything like it before.
Within minutes, the wind violently tore through the parking lot, carrying shopping carts and debris with it. There were dust devils from the construction site at the OSU campus across the street. Metal poles were bending over, and a crane hundreds of feet in the air was swaying like a blade of grass. The rain was blowing horizontally, the lightening right on top of the building, and the thunder deafening. A man in the cafe area yelled "It's the second coming!", and a group of friends huddled together in fear while many kept working away on their laptops. The flickering lights finally gave way and the power went out.
The storm started to let up about thirty minutes later. The store decided to close since they had no power, so I ran to my car. The parking lot was strewn with downed trees and branches. A mass of people ran out of the movie theater to see what was going on, the traffic lights weren't working, and the sirens of emergency vehicles were louder than the thunder. It was pure chaos.
I drove past mangled, warped billboards, massive trees on top of houses, and houses and buildings on fire from lightening strikes. It looked like a scene from a disaster movie. Miraculously, our apartment never lost power. We're some of the very few in the state that still have power. We spent the evening at our friends' house sans electricity, staying up till midnight telling stories by candlelight and a flashlight hanging from the ceiling fan.
Here are some pictures of the damage in Columbus, all from The Columbus Dispatch. All taken within several miles from where I live.
Please keep these people in your prayers. I know other states were hit just as horribly. I'm so grateful that we are safe. Even though I would never wish this destruction on anyone, this storm was an incredible thing to witness firsthand.