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Chasing tornadoes with Dallas Raines

Dallas Raines had his closest encounter ever over Memorial Day weekend when he went to Colorado to chase tornadoes.

June 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
I had my closest encounter ever with twisters over Memorial Day weekend when I went tornado-chasing in Colorado.

This was my fourth year heading back to "Tornado Alley" with my colleagues from Tempest Tours. After analyzing models and the radar, I picked Colorado as conditions appeared to be ripe for severe thunderstorms.

Through the years, I've learned that it is not simple to pinpoint exactly where a twister will form, even if the conditions are favorable. It takes patience, a lot of waiting, and a whole lot of driving.

While on the rural roads, it's wise to always keep your eyes -- and ears -- open. You can hear the roar. It's called a "hail roar."

After waiting and watching, when the first tornado appeared, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. You could see the winds swirling around counterclockwise. It was just the most beautiful funnel. We were less than a quarter of a mile away and I was instantly amazed by its beauty.

Your natural instinct is to run for your life, but I hung on for a few more moments. As it swirled right above me I felt smaller and smaller. Perhaps we were a little too close.

"I'm going to keep looking at it until you tell me to go!" I said to Bill.

Suddenly the adrenaline started kicking in and I knew it was time to leave. We jumped in our cars and drove to safety, admiring the enormous beast from a distance.

Suddenly there was silence. The violent storm that produced so much power was vanishing before our eyes.

As I looked in the distance I saw a beautiful rainbow, as if it was a sign that our adventure was coming to an end.