The Illusive Storm
My Strangest Encounter with a Person, Place, or Thing in the West Return to contest page »
A scary and unusual thunderstorm.
At my rural home in central Colorado, in April of this year, I was awakened just after midnight by an explosive boom. Not only did I think something had blown up nearby, but after several seconds of crashing noise, a rumbling continued for about fifteen more seconds before it finally died out. That may not sound like a long time, but sit quietly with your eyes closed and imagine thunder fading away while you count out fifteen seconds… it seemed too long and persistent to be thunder. In the past I have heard thunder rumble and ricochet around the sky for even longer, but this eerie, fading resonance made the explosive sound that spawned it that much more strange and scary.
While I was sitting up in bed, fully awake now, muttering “Oh, my God” over and over to myself, and looking out the window for signs of fire, raindrops slowly and quietly began to fall. Still I couldn’t believe this was a thunderstorm.
In the next moment the entire field of view outside my large double windows was filled with incredibly intense light. It persisted at the same intensity for about five seconds. Again, that doesn’t sound like very long, but it was much longer than a bolt of lightning. It was a wall of white brilliance – no lightening-like shapes at all. I sat there dumbfounded while I listened to the sparse raindrops, still not relating them to the boom and the burst of light. Before five minutes had passed from the time I had awakened, all was still.
Trembling, I patrolled the house, then outside the house, listening, trying to figure out if the world had ended. I realized I didn’t remember feeling any vibration or sensations during either the boom or the flash. And my two dogs, who were both sleeping on the bed at the time and barely raised their heads when I sat up, had never even flinched.
How could something that sounded like a huge explosion have not shaken me and the bed and the house? Once the dogs were awake, how could a blinding flash of that scale fail to elicit a response from them? And how had my huzbun, who was awakened by the explosion but had already closed his eyes again when the flash occurred, not noticed the burst of light, continuing to go back to sleep while the room was literally filled with radiance?
I turned on the television and nervously monitored the news channels – for three hours – nothing. I finally realized I would not be able to convince myself it had been a thunderstorm until I went to sleep and woke up to the light of day.
* * *
Indeed, by the next morning I knew that’s what it had been. But I felt shaky and uneasy all that day. I normally would have asked my closest neighbor what he had heard or seen, but he was away from home at the time.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that this had happened only to me. I scanned the newspapers for the next few days, but found no explanation for it. I realized that if it had been a localized thunderstorm anomaly, then I was probably the only person who could have witnessed it, the conditions outside my window having been just right. I am grateful that my huzbun heard the thunder, remembered it the next day, and even conceded that it sounded unusual; at least I didn’t imagine that part!
I have observed some wild thunderstorms over the years. I love unusual weather, and often go outside when a storm blows through. I was raised on the East Coast, and as a child I was never afraid of thunder and lightening; rather I would watch excitedly for the next streak of lightening, count down the seconds, and marvel at the thunder. When I came West, the wide open spaces and the weather-watching opportunities thrilled me. Being able to watch rain or snow falling in the distance was new to me. And the rainbows left me speechless.
Months later I still remember the eerie storm and how it had truly confounded me. I have a poor old memory, and I know I have forgotten a lot of extraordinary things that have happened to me in the West. I remember the UFOs I saw one summer…I remember almost falling off a cliff – a fall that would have killed me…and now I will always remember the night of the illusive storm.