Friday, June 19, 2009

Lake Michigan Is No Longer The Only Lake Here

Location: Zion, Il

Last night's storms were nothing compared to today's. We had one storm line pass by this morning, and then something odd happened... the sun came out! But that was just a tease as it turned out -- by early evening, another huge line of storms was poised to march into the area.

I had been watching the Doppler radar on Weather Underground, and knew the storm was coming. The situation started getting serious when the on-screen triangle that signifies a "hook," or possible forming tornado, showed up ten miles north of this location. My weather radio was in an almost-constant alert mode. A few minutes later, the local warning sirens started to go off (a sound I haven't heard in 20 years or so).

Campers were spilling into the street, and what we saw was amazing and scary. Dark, ominous clouds were billowing and rolling right above our heads. Do you remember what the sky looked like in the movie Independence Day when the aliens ships arrived? That's what it was like.

Park personnel were there to direct us to shelters (i.e., the showers/restrooms) and about 50 or so men, women, children, and dogs all crowded into the sturdy, block building. In the interests of reporting honesty I have to admit that most of us stood outside, some with Happy Hour drinks and snacks, watching the clouds approach and the lightning strobe -- but we were standing really near the door, ready to dash inside at the slightest hint of an actual tornado!

Here's a short video of the event, taken before the rain started. The more severe rolling movement of sky was in the lighter areas and is washed out in this video.

We never did get the tornado, but we have had torrential rains for literally hours. Even with raincoats or slickers, the downpour was so heavy that the water found its way inside the cover-ups to drench everyone's clothing and shoes. The guys camped in tents across the road decided they couldn't get any wetter, so why not play catch in the road? Everything is covered in water -- the lake in the lot has merged with the lake behind the hookups and the tent sites are now lakeside camping. This morning I saw ducks swimming behind the rig; now they can swim underneath it!

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