So...today I'm at work (Air National Guard Technician) and I start watching the weather radar around lunch time. There was a pretty good sized storm crossing through Chicago and heading our way. When I looked back about 45 minutes later the storm had already travelled about 75 miles and was really getting close. I figured at the speed it was travelling (80mph) that we had maybe an hour until it got to us in North East Indiana. Oh goody, we have three A-10Cs in the air and they're expected back after the storm hits us so we'll be recovering them in the rain.
Somebody got the great idea to bring the A-10s back early...try to beat the storm. Well, the skies started turning black, and our city's three medivac helicopters flew in and landed fast to get into an airport hangar for protection...that's when you know it's going to be a big storm. Shortly after that our three A-10s landed. The wind started picking up a bit and we thought it was going to be pretty close but we should be able to get the jets recovered and tied down. As the final jet taxiied into the spot where I was helping out we all noticed a LOT of dust picking up from the other side of the airport...and the dust cloud was rolling on it's side like a funnel cloud.
I got my side chocked and the landing gear pinned and was ready to do a tire roll over check when I saw the crew chief motioning to keep the chocks in. By now the wind was really picking up and we were starting to get some of the dust and pebbles hitting us. Okay, we're going to do an emergency shut down and find cover. Too late.
I went to reposition the back chock and the airplane started rolling backward from the wind...and the engines were still running at idle so it shouldn't be rolling backward...lol. Got the chock back in while bracing myself from the wind when I saw the aircraft forms book go sliding past me. I ran after it so it wouldn't blow away (they're pretty important) and got knocked off my feet as I grabbed for it. By now I was getting pelted by gravel and any other debris that was on the ramp so I just sat down facing away from it. Then the gust got so strong I started to worry a little and just layed back, but as I did all I saw were every ladder, toolbox, aircraft covers, big Joboxes like construction workers use, headsets...anything not tied down went sliding or tumbling past me. I knew there were still things like that in the spot I was working so I kept looking back to make sure I wasn't going to get hit with anything.
I looked up and then saw a hydraulic test stand (Mule) start to drive away by itself across the ramp. This thing has to weigh at least 1500lbs and so it wouldn't run into anything I ran to it to check the brakes. They were set, but I released and reset them which got it stopped. I then hunkered down beside it out of the wind and flying debris. As I looked around again I saw my buddies hanging on to landing gear struts, structure supports for our sunshade shelters we were in, or whatever they could hold on to. Finally my supervisor drove up to me in a "bread truck" and told me to get in so we could get out of the storm.
After the storm we did our damage assessment. My jet has rudder damage from an intake cover that partially blew off and just beat the piss out of the left side of my airplane. A few more jets have some minor damage, and about 4-5 jets actually moved even though they were tied down. On of my jet's chock ropes was under the right tire which means the right side of my jet lifted so the rope could get under it.
This microburst had sustained winds clocked at 91mph and lasted for (what seemed like forever) about 2-3 minutes. Definately something I never want to be caught outside in again! Luckily nobody was hurt although the base and a few aircraft took some damage.