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Tornado Encounters

While driving home to Illinois from Iowa City during my senior year in college, I looked up to an extremely unexpected and unsettling sight. On my left side, what looked to be a few miles away, was a narrow funnel protruding from the bottom of a cloud. I quickly began taking photos of and filming the cloud, hoping that I’d be able to dig deeper later on and find out exactly what it was. Based on the weather at the time, it seemed very unlikely that a tornado of any magnitude could form. It only came down about halfway from the cloud to the ground, so it certainly wasn’t a full tornado, but what truly struck me as strange was that for a few minutes it seemed to stay in the same location, and its shape seemed to be unchanging the entire time.

I thought about other possibilities and the likelihood of them being what I was witnessing, mainly entertaining the idea that a meteorite had passed through a cloud and formed the shape. That idea was short-lived because after those few minutes ended, it took only another minute or so for the funnel to become foggy and fade, and I was shocked to see another similarly shaped funnel form close-by when the first was nearly gone. By this time, I had driven a few miles down the road and it became difficult to look back while driving or take any more good photos.

I still don’t know exactly what it was or if weak funnels are a common phenomenon outside of storms, but I do believe that I drove past a tornado funnel that day. Since my childhood, I have hoped to witness a tornado in some form. I give this experience half-credit for fulfilling that desire, but still hope that I will one day be able to see one form and touch down. Nevertheless, this was an interesting weather occurrence to witness and I’m glad that I looked out the window when I did.

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