The Illusive Storm

By Gwen Hoffnagle

          I love unusual weather, and often go outside when a storm blows through. As a child I was never afraid of thunderstorms or violent weather. I would watch excitedly for the next streak of lightening, count down the seconds, and marvel at the thunder. But at my rural home in central Colorado in April of 2010, I witnessed two storm events that were the most phenomenal and fantastic I have ever experienced.

          I was awakened just after midnight by an explosive boom. At first I thought something had blown up nearby. After several seconds of crashing noise, the fading grumble – not thunder rumble, but just the dying out of sound – continued for about fifteen seconds before it finally expired. 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 persistent, for too long, to be thunder. I have heard thunder rumble and ricochet around the sky for longer, but this eerie, fading resonance made the explosive sound that spawned it that much more strange and scary.

          I sat up in bed, 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, but I could not believe it was a thunderstorm and not a cataclysmic event.

          In the next moment, the entire field of view outside my large double windows was filled with a blinding light. And everything around me inside was lost and indiscernible in the flare of illumination that persisted for about five seconds. Again, that doesn’t sound like very long, but at that intensity it was truly spectacular, and lasted much longer than a lightning strike. It was a wall of white brilliance – no lightening-like shapes at all. I sat there dumbfounded while listening to the sparse raindrops, still not relating them to the boom and the burst of light. A few ordinary lightening flashes followed, but before five minutes had passed from the time I had awakened, all was still.

          I sat there dumbfounded, still not believing that these two events were weather. Trembling, I got up and patrolled the house, then outside the house, listening, trying to figure out if the world had ended. Low clouds had left everything a dull, dark gray, and I could see nothing beyond the closest familiar objects in the yard – another anomaly, as fog is extremely rare in the rolling foothills where I live. Then I couldn’t remember feeling any physical sensations during either the crash or the flash. And my two dogs, who were both sleeping on the bed at the time and had barely raised their heads when I sat up, never even flinched.

           I turned on the television and monitored news channels for three hours – nothing. I finally realized I would not likely be able to convince myself it had been thunder and lightening until I went to sleep and woke up to the light of day.

* * *

          Indeed, by the next morning I knew that was what it had been. But I was shaken, and felt uneasy all the next day; it was all I could think about. The odd sensation of experiencing the thunder before the lightening haunted me. How could something that sounded like a huge explosion not have shaken the house? Once the dogs were awake, how could a blinding flash of that scale fail to elicit a response from them? And how could my huzbun, who came half awake at the blast but had already closed his eyes again when the flash occurred, not have noticed, continuing to go back to sleep while the room was literally filled with light?

          I normally would have asked my closest neighbor about it, 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 two days, but read nothing about it.

          If I settle on the obvious conclusion that it was a localized thunderstorm anomaly, then I am probably the only person who could have witnessed the weird thunder and the bizarre, blinding light show, the foggy conditions having been just right outside my window. I am grateful that my huzbun heard the boom, remembered it the next day, and even conceded that it was pretty intense – at least I didn’t imagine that.

          Many months later I still remember the eerie storm and how it truly confounded me. I have a poor old memory, and I know I have forgotten a lot of things that have happened to me that were extraordinary. But 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.