At 11:30 I woke up when the rain tore into the side of the house like a machine gun. Realizing “oh, it’s just the front line” I put my head back down and headed back out of consciousness. When the power went out shortly after that I woke up again. We slowly became aware that there sure was a lot of light outside given the power outage and, come to think of it, it was flashing a lot. Opening the blinds and peering out we couldn’t see any details but we could tell immediately that the light was not lightning. You’d think it was light from multiple emergency vehicles but the colors (and they changed rapidly) were primarily blue, green and yellow. We also noticed a loud hum.
We got up.
In the hall we met my mother-in-law with a flashlight. She said she remembered this exact light show and hum when a tornado passed through. I thought it had to be electrically related. Either way, it was very unnerving. We stepped outside to try to see better. The flashing light lasted for at least three minutes and then just abruptly stopped. I’d seen fuses and transformers blow but that happens rapidly and sounds like a shot and a bomb respectively. All I could think was that electricity was arcing from one thing to another but I couldn’t imagine why it was lasting so long.
Needless to say, it took a little while to go back to sleep.
This morning I searched around and found in the news that a fire had been reported at a local substation, been checked out, and nothing found. Someone must have been close enough to the substation to see the source. Still wanting confirmation that that was indeed what we had seen, I found these videos. Cool.
The NWS would like to draw attention to nighttime tornadoes. These tornadoes pose a greater danger than those that occur during the daylight because once most people go to bed, they are no longer connected to the watches or warnings issued by the NWS. Also at night, visibility is reduced and observing a tornado is more difficult. This is elevated during the winter months because it is not the traditional tornado season. Research by Gaugin et al. 2010 compared tornado statistics from the Great Plains in the traditional “Tornado Alley” to tornadoes in the Deep South or “Dixie Alley”. Researchers found that Dixie Alley had far greater numbers of Killer Strong/Violent Tornadoes between 9pm – 9am time frame. Dixie Alley had nearly twice the number of strong/violent tornadoes from Midnight-Noon time frame than Tornado Alley from 1950-2007.