Sunday, April 24, 2011

Storm Chasers

(Lambert Field, St. Louis; image courtesy of Time)

Oliver almost became an orphan Friday night. Derek and I were on our way to St. Louis to see The Joy Formidable at the Luminary Center for the Arts. Unfortunately, we found ourselves right by the airport when the tornado hit.


We should have realized something was amiss when official storm chasers passed us on I-70 right outside of Columbia. I thought it was pretty exciting—I've never seen actual storm chasers aside from the ones on TV—but at the same time, we were both wondering, Do they know something we don't? We knew the storms had just passed by Columbia and were heading toward St. Louis, but somehow we thought we would be able to follow the storm system without catching it.

Um... we were wrong. The sky grew darker and darker ahead of us, and about an hour and a half later it started to turn a bright orange/green color. The air felt weird and quiet. We were significantly freaked out at this point, but we STILL thought we could make the concert. About five minutes later, however, as we eyed the churning clouds above us, the radio announced that a tornado had just touched down in Darden Prairie and was bearing down on O'Fallon. I looked to my right, and there was an exit sign for... O'Fallon.


About this time we went under an overpass with many wise people pulled over beneath it. Derek said, "We've got to get off this highway now," and I nodded wordlessly as we exited at O'Fallon and hightailed it north away from the storm. We ended up parked on a rural highway watching the storm pass in the distance—what we could see of it, anyway. I was straining my eyes for the actual tornado but never did see it, although it's possible some of the weird cloud formations above us on I-70 were undeveloped tornados. There was a rather excited kid from Arkansas parked on the same highway as us, taking photos with his phone and swearing he'd seen a funnel cloud.

We thought we were safe about half an hour later and decided, unwisely as it turns out, to try to make the concert. We got back on I-70 and headed east. As we crossed over I-270, traffic suddenly came to a halt. I looked down at I-270 and saw that it was a parking lot. What we didn't know at the time was that the storm had hit the St. Louis airport and torn up I-70, downing power lines and bending signs and sending trees and debris all over the road.

(Downed power lines on I-70 Friday night; image courtesy of the Columbia Missourian)

And so we sat on I-70 for the next 3 or 4 hours until all three lanes of traffic could merge into one and exit at Charles Rock Road.

And then we got to turn around and drive two hours home—at midnight.

We got home at 2:00 in the morning, both of us stunned by how completely shitty our night had been. We basically spent 7 or 8 hours in the car and got nothing out of it except hot beverages and two bags of Combos from a gas station somewhere between St. Louis and Columbia. I at least wanted to see the stupid tornado after all of that. A photo would have helped soften the blow of our craptastic evening.

Saturday was better. I went for an eight-mile run with Oliver, and Derek went for a ride with Larry, Dana, and Liam. We got to burn off our frustrations through the ever-effective medium of exercise. Then on Saturday night the Windmoellers took Larry, Derek, Dana, and I on a Tour of Debauchery that included a pub crawl through several of Columbia's classic dive bars, including the Black and Gold and the Tiger Club. Derek and I were so tired from the night before, we had to bow out early. I'm just glad I lived to drink Stag beer from a can at the Black and Gold. It was the fulfillment of all my dreams.

(Wow, is this stuff terrible; image courtesy of Beer Universe)

This week's running schedule looks like this:

Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 6 miles
Wednesday: 45 minutes of cross-training
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: 11 miles
Sunday: 1 hour of cross-training

I hope you all enjoyed your Easter celebrations this year. Here's to the start of a new week...

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