Although I didn’t have on ruby red slippers, I almost ended up in Oz with Dorothy this past Friday. While on a golf outing at Champion Lakes golf course in Ligonier, PA, I witnessed for the first time in person a real live tornado. Stormy weather ripped through Westmoreland county on Friday, June 1st, including the number one hole at Champion Lakes.
Riding my golf cart away from the first green, I saw a great bolt of lighting off to the west. Thunder followed and after finishing up the hole, I looked back to the first tee for the group behind mine to find them riding their carts as fast as possible back to the clubhouse. Yelling back to announce the fact to my group, I turned to the southwest to find chunks of trees twirling wildly in the air not a mile and a half away. Disbelief was my first reaction, then shock and amazement at seeing this force of nature ripping through the woods, tearing everything in its way into pieces. A few seconds went by before my partner and I realized that we needed to “book it” to the clubhouse. As I burned grass with the pedal to the metal back to the building, we saw the tornado off to our right also “booking it” to the same place it seemed. With an announcement of “we’re not gonna make it!” to my partner, we decided to turn around and go the opposite direction.
Reaching the edge of the course and a place that was as safe as it was going to get, we looked back to watch the twister continue to move west to east, right to left, in front of us. The beast didn’t take the clubhouse actually, but moved passed the building on the far side, probably about a half mile to a mile away from us. Within the time of about thirty seconds the twister dissipated to nothing.
Needless to say, the experience was pretty incredible and one I won’t forget any time soon. News reports afterward noted that this particular storm, being on the lowest end of the tornado category, recorded winds around 105 mph. After seeing what a “little” storm like this one could do, I can’t imagine the storms that make their way through the midwest. While it was unnerving at the time, I am glad I was able to get this close to such a force of nature. Seeing things like this just prove again that there are some things we’ll never be able to control. And it was just really cool.