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Thursday, January 31, 2013

I can't believe it's Thursday already!!

I won't be posting for the rest of the week . Thanks to all those who take the time to visit my blog. I'll be back in  few days. Until then...












Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The weather in parts of the country match my story...

                      I am so ready for spring, aren't you?









Chapter Eight ~


The air was heavy with humidity and Faith's clothes stuck to her body. She grasped her shirt and pulled it away from her damp skin and groaned. “Ugh, this humidity is crazy.”

“Yep, you’ll have to get used to it, no air conditioning out here.” Jim gave her a hundred-watt smile and her heart flipped. I think I’m in love.

Everyone stood around Jim's SUV, making small talk and getting to know Faith better. She would get along with all of them, now that Alex was gone.

"So how long have you been a meteorologist?" Jenny asked. Faith liked the quiet girl and hoped they’d become friends.

"I've been at the TV station for about four years now. Before that I taught a class for two semesters at the local college." She smiled, welcoming the questions.

"So what made you decide to chase?" Vince Dobbs asked, joining the conversation.

"It was actually a fluke. I took some footage of the storm yesterday and when my boss saw it she took it straight to the station's producer and she loved it so much she decided it would be my new job. She thinks it will boost ratings for the show." She gave a rueful grin. "I actually loved doing it so it’s all good."

"I bet she's right. It should boost the ratings. I've watched the show and I have to admit, it's a little stale," Jim admitted with a grin.

Everybody laughed, totally comfortable with Faith. They treated her as if she was already a member of the team and a wave of gratitude swept through her as she laughed with them.

"I think we should get her a jacket, Jim. What do you think?" John Haney asked.

"That’s a great idea. They're in your trunk, aren't they?" He asked his sister. She nodded and he took the keys she offered him and came back a couple minutes later with a bright red jacket with 'Twister Tales Storm Chasers' on the right breast with a bigger logo across the back in white letters. There was a huge tornado swirling among the words in such a way it looked like it was in motion.

"This is awesome, who designed it?" She asked.

"Jim did." Jenny glanced at him with pride. "He's pretty artistic, huh?"

"It's a great design. I'll wear it proudly." She put it on and twirled around for all to see. Wearing the jacket in this heat made her even hotter, but she knew she’d be thankful for it later.

Jim’s sister looked at the computer she had set-up on a small metal table beside her SUV and said, "The storm's almost here. There are still three pronounced hooks, but they look like they're swirling around each other. We should know pretty soon what we're gonna get. I'm surprised it traveled this far without causing total chaos. I've had several reports of tornadoes on the ground, but nothing unusual for any tornadic system. Maybe it's just a glitch and it's not really a triple-hook system. Or I guess it could be clouds in a rain-wrapped tornado."

"Jenny, don't be ridiculous. You know what that looks like and this isn't it. I wouldn't have rushed us all here like I did if I hadn't seen the same thing you're seeing," Jim told her in more of a big-brother voice than a boss's.

"I'm gonna go call one of the local TV stations and see if they're seeing the same thing we are." He moved to the back of the SUV to make the call.

"You don't have to do that,” Jenny called after him. "I've got the local TV station right here," She said and turned the other laptop around. She turned the sound up and they all watched as a newscaster lost total composure right on the air.

Jim came back to her table and shushed one of the guys who started to say something to him. “Let’s hear this.” He gestured to the screen and everyone went silent.

"...It's a massive storm system. Please take cover! If you live in a mobile home, get out! Find a ditch, or even a creek, I don't care, just get out!" The newscaster was saying in a flustered voice. "If you have a basement or a storm cellar, get in it and take your animals with you," He yelled just before the station went out and a buzzing noise replaced him.

"Wow, it really is true!" Jenny cried. The emergency broadcasting system came on then after a 'beep, beep, and beep' sound.

"This is a message from the emergency broadcast system. A massive-sized storm is just northwest of the Dallas Metro area. Take cover at this time. Do not waste time gathering material items. Take shelter now," The voice said. It wasn't the normal pre-recorded voice that usually ran in these instances, but a live female voice sounding shocked and stunned.

Just then the first wisps of wind began to kick up. Faith looked at the sky and was mesmerized as the massive wall cloud appeared right over top of them. Small pellets of ice began to hit and Jenny grabbed an umbrella from the side of her chair to protect her computers.

"You might have to take them to the car, Sis," Jim said. "Look, the sky's going green."

He sounded excited and Faith was glad she wasn’t the only one to feel exhilaration, even in the face of such fury. Am I insane for feeling the way I do?

 Bigger pieces of hail began to fall, and at a faster pace. Jenny grabbed her computers and ran for the car. She dumped them in the backseat, ran back for the table, but it flew through the air on a gust of wind.

 "Oh no, I thought we had more time before it got here,” Jenny said as she pointed toward the sky. "That's the biggest wall cloud I've ever seen!" She ran back to the car and set her laptops up on the dash. "Jim, come look at this," She yelled in excitement.

"What is it?" He ran toward her, Faith right on his heels.

"What is it?" Faith asked. Even though she didn't know her that well, she knew the sound of terror when she heard it.

"It's...I...Oh my, we need to pray," She yelled.

The rest of the crew ran toward Jenny's SUV, too. They were all standing around it, holding umbrellas above them when she pulled her radar computer up and turned it around for them to see.

"That's impossible, there's no way," Jim said in disbelief.

"Is it a joke, or for real?" Faith asked, her heart tripping in fear.

"We need to take cover right now! Pack up and get out. We need to move," Jim ordered.

The radar was one massive tornado that was bearing down on them faster than they were going to be able to run. There were hook-echoes everywhere. Faith had never seen anything like it. She still didn't know whether to believe what her eyes were seeing. They'd never mentioned anything like this in school...What was going on?

Huge hail began to fall then, hitting the roofs of the SUV's and making massive dents as they hit. They were the size of small soccer balls. Faith stood immobile, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. Of their own accord, her hands had pulled up the camera hanging around her neck and begun to film what she was seeing. In the back of her mind she heard a noise. It was Jim's voice.

"Faith, are you crazy? Let's go while we still can."

That was the last thing she heard before the wind carried her away.

                                 ***

 Faith screamed with such terror Jim began to pray, "Dear Father, please keep her alive if it's your will."  Then he was swept away too. The trucks were jerked from the ground like Tonka toys and the roar of the wind was like a hundred trains converging in one spot all at once. In seconds, every vehicle from the team was gone and the only thing left was Scooby, Faith's small Chihuahua. He lay cowering in the ditch where he'd run when the noise started. He whined pitifully, looking for his master.

Faith must have lost consciousness because the next thing she was aware of was the cold rain hitting her in the face. The hail had finally stopped and she dared to open her eyes. What she saw was so dismaying she closed them again for a minute. When she re-opened them the landscape still looked the same. Huge chunks of ground were pulled up. She could see big chunks of red metal that was the remnant of the crew's trucks lying all over the area. Massive trees were pulled up out of the ground like toothpicks and lay discarded on the ground, their roots showing with clumps of dirt still hanging to them.

Faith heard a moan and it took her several minutes to realize it was her own voice. She began to scream, "Jim! Jenny! Anybody, can you hear me?" There was no reply. She glanced up at the sky and saw another rope tornado on the ground just to the west of where she lay, but it was small and nothing like what she’d just endured. She thanked God she was still alive. "Scooby, where are you?" She'd never felt so alone in her life. "Scooby Doo, please come!"

She heard a small whimper and that motivated her to try to get up. "Jim! Jenny! Can anyone hear me?" Large trails of tears sped down her already wet cheeks as she maneuvered her way to a sitting position. A piece of red metal held her legs in and she couldn't move it at first. She pushed again with all her might and it finally gave way with a loud screeching noise. She felt her legs and ran her hands all along her feet, but felt no pain. She was lucky she didn't seem to have any injuries. She got up and made her way to Scooby's whimpering noises.

"Oh Scooby, you're okay too," She cried as she scooped him up and hugged his skinny little body to her. He was shivering and she shoved him up under her coat before starting off in search of the rest of the crew.

She began to yell again, "Jim, Jenny! John, Vince?" She choked back a sob and continued to yell as she moved forward, "Bobby, can you hear me?"

"Over here," A weak voice squeaked. She barely heard it, but ran toward the sound when it reached her ears. It was Bobby Cantor, Jim's navigator. She crouched down beside him and asked, "Are you okay? Is anything hurt?"

"I can't move my legs," He said as he looked up at her with terror in his eyes. Her own eyes watered in response. His hand reached up to her face and when he brought it back it was covered in blood. She gasped. Was she bleeding? She hadn't even noticed.

"You hurt your face." His voice sounded funny and she believed he was in shock and needed a doctor.

"I'm okay, Bobby. We need to get you out of here," She said in a conversational tone as she walked around him to see what was going on. She tried not to let him see the horror in her face of all that she saw around her. "I'm gonna go see if I can find the rest of the crew. Will you be okay for a while?" He probably couldn't feel his legs because there was a heavy piece of red metal holding them down. She checked them and they still had color, so that was a good sign.

"Yeah, you wouldn't happen to have any water would you? I am so thirsty!"

She smiled widely. She'd found Scooby's satchel laying on the ground a few hundred feet back and there were four bottles of water in the side pouches. She pulled one out now and handed it to him. "Try to hang in there. I'll be back as soon as I can."

 





Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our story continues...

         Here are some real tornado picks so you can get a feel for what's happening in the story.














Chapter Seven ~


When Jim caught up with the rest of his team they were scoping out a monster tornado.

Faith gasped when she saw it. "Wow, They look so different than they do on radar, don't they? It's nowhere near as exciting to see it on a computer screen as it is to see it in real life." She pulled her camera up and started shooting video. She spoke quietly, but the excitement was obvious in her voice. "It must be almost a mile wide! I see debris! Oh, those poor people are losing their homes!" Dear Lord, be with them.

She continued to take pictures after she clicked the record button to the off position. She had never been so excited in her life, but the excitement was tempered with sadness at the destruction the mighty storm was causing.

"It looks like its shifting, Faith. We need to get out of here," Jim yelled.

Faith didn't respond. She was too busy taking pictures. A thrill rushed through her as the monster twister headed straight for her.

"Faith, we need to leave!" Jim yelled. He ran up and grabbed her, forcibly pulling her back to the SUV. He opened her door and shoved her inside, ran back around to his own side and hopped in, starting the car as he did. He peeled out and backed up until he reached a side road. He backed into it until they were out of the twisting storm's path.

The other SUVs were already there and Jim stopped a few feet in front of John Haney's. He picked up the CB mic, pushed the button on the side and said, "That was a close call guys. Did we get any data?"

"We did, boss," John Haney returned. "Did you see how big it was?"

"Yes, I also saw the debris from the damage it did."

"That's true boss, I'm sorry,” John said. "I just get excited every time we see one that big.”

"I know, and I feel the same way, I just don’t want any of us to lose sight of the death and destruction these beasts cause. That's why we do this, so we can stretch the warning time out, maybe save some of those lives," Jim said.

"You're right, Jenny's on the data right now. She says there's another system developing about an hour from here. Should we go back and get our gear and head out?" John asked.

"That's affirmative, let's roll," Jim answered and began to pull-out of the muddy road. He shook his head and asked Faith, "Did you get some usable footage?"

"I sure did, It's even better than last time. I can't believe I've wasted so many years sitting behind a desk."

"The people sitting behind desks are just as important to this job as we are."

"I know, but this is so much more exciting. I want to learn everything I can. I want to be as good as you are."

"I think you are that good, you’re just not giving yourself enough credit. Think of all the lives you've saved by tracking these storms and issuing warnings."

"I tracked the storms, but I didn't issue the warnings. That's my sister's job."

"Still, don't sell yourself short. Your job is important."

"I know." She said wistfully. "It's just these last few months I've felt a discontent I didn't understand. I mean, my job pays well and it does save lives, but it's become so tedious and predictable, ya know?" I wish I could explain this better.

"I know what you mean. Some people are happier with more excitement in their lives. I happen to be one of those people." He gave her an understanding smile.

"I guess I am too, I just didn't realize it until now. I mean, I've spent my whole adult life sitting behind a desk, and I thought that's what I wanted, but since I saw that first tornado up close and personal my whole outlook on life has changed. Do you think that's wrong?"

"No, I think as people age they go through different growth spurts. They become more emotionally mature and their intelligence grows along the way. Sometimes, their needs and desires change, too. I believe as long as you follow God you can't go wrong." His tone was hesitant, like he was fishing for the answer to a question but didn't want to push too hard.

"I...don't know about all that God stuff. I mean, I believe in Him, I just don't know if I want to follow all His rules and regulations. There are some pretty confusing stories in the Old Testament I don't understand. I don't know if I can love a God like that." She wasn’t conveying her thoughts about this the way she wanted, either.

"You can't sit on a fence forever. If you only call on God in times of trouble He might quit calling on you," He warned.

"I know. When that tornado came through my Dad's property the first thing I thought to do was pray to Him, and then again later when I shot my first video, but now I'm right back in that state of confusion that keeps me at arm's length. Do you know what I mean?"

Jim liked the fact she was searching for answers. That was better than not thinking about God at all. "I do know what you mean and if you have any questions about God or the Bible feel free to ask me. If I can't answer them I'll call my pastor and ask him. Between all of us we'll find the answers you're looking for."

"Thank you.” She smiled. "It's nice to know someone cares about my soul."

"I do care about your soul, but God cares even more. Do you have a Bible?"

"I did, but it was at my Dad's." Guilt flooded through her. She should’ve kept it at her apartment.

"How long have you lived on your own?" Jim asked as he pulled into the motel parking lot.

"I've been on my own for about seven years." She gave him a sheepish grin.

"You need to read your Bible," Jim said in a shocked voice.

A shiver of alarm went through her at his tone. "I'm sorry. I know I should read it, but that Old Testament just got to me and I can't seem to get through it." That isn’t a good excuse.

As if reading her mind he said, "That's not a good excuse." He turned toward her. "If you want, I can study with you. I can even set up a meeting for you with my pastor if you want."

"I don't think I'm ready for anything that drastic yet. Maybe we could read together or something, see how it goes."

                                 ***

She got out of the car and walked toward her room. He watched her go, knowing it was too late to guard his heart from this woman who'd wormed her way into his life faster than he'd been able to build a barrier to keep her at bay. He’d been praying for a wife, maybe God had sent Faith to him, in more ways than one. In his own mind the play on words was enough to convince him that was exactly what had happened. He got out of the car with a secret smile on his handsome face. He went toward his own room to gather his things and get ready for the next run.

                                  ***

When Faith got back out to the car Jim was already waiting on her. He had a map out, studying it intently. She slid into the passenger seat after throwing her bag in the back. "Do you think my car will be safe here?"

"It'll be fine. I already called Chuck. He's the manager. I told him to keep an eye on it. Now all you have to worry about is the tornadoes," He teased her with a wide grin. It brightened his baby-blue eyes and made Faith's heart take a flip.

"I didn't see any more weather headed this way," She said, scrunching her eyes.

"I was kidding, but you know how it is around here." He started the car and pulled-out.

There was nothing around but farm land and red dirt so Faith laid her head back against the seat because it didn't quite reach the headrest. She tried to doze, but it didn't last long. A few minutes after shutting her eyes she felt the air pressure in the car change. Her eyes flew open to see what was going on. She was astounded by the sight of trees ripping from the ground out her side window. There was debris flying everywhere and she hastened to get her camera up in a position to take it all in. "Wow that was quick. I just looked at the radar before I closed my eyes and there wasn’t anything there,” She exclaimed in excitement.

"It happens that way sometimes. We can't always tell when a system will drop a twister, or where for that matter." His grip tightened on the steering wheel.

Faith could just make out the other bright red vehicles through the dust and debris. It looked like they were slowing to a stop. "What's going on, we need to get out of the way," She yelled, pushing her foot into the floorboard, hitting an imaginary gas pedal.

"They're going to turn right up ahead. There's a small service road that's hardly ever used. It should bring us up beside it, but still out of its direct path. You should be able to get some good footage."

"Oh, I see." Embarrassment colored her face. She felt like a child. "I thought you were going to stop, I'm sorry."

"Nope, I was turning to get out of the way. We've been doing this for a long time, Faith. We make mistakes, but not very often.

"There it is,” she exclaimed. She turned on the video recorder and began following it with her lens.

"It’s a nice rope. I've never seen one so big," She said for the video's sake. "It's awesome to be this close to something so beautiful and dangerous."

"Faith, look to the left," Jim said in excitement. There was another tornado coming out of the same wall cloud. It was massive in size, and wedge-shaped.

"Oh wow, it’s beautiful. It isn't hard to believe in God at all when we see such evidence of his power," Faith said in a hushed tone.

"It certainly isn't. I just wish people would quit attributing the power of God to some false idol called 'mother nature.' He has to be angry about that one," Jim said.

"I bet. It's times like these I don't have a problem acknowledging His existence. I wish the Old Testament wasn’t such a stumbling block for me,” She said after she turned the video recorder off.

"I meant what I said earlier. We can study together if you want. I'll do whatever it takes if it means you'll come to know the truth." He pulled out and headed toward Texas.

Three hours passed as they drove down U.S. two-eighty-seven going south. They made small-talk, getting to know each other.

Jim had just told her he was about ready for some lunch when a huge wedge tornado dropped down to the west of them. It didn't last long, but he saw his chasers rushing to deploy some of the little electronic pieces into it that he lovingly called his 'bugs.' They collected all kinds of data about the tornado itself, including wind speed and velocity. His hope was to extend the warning time to more than just a few minutes.

 They sat together and watched the funnel do its damage to the countryside. Jim picked up the mic to the CB and pushed the side button in. "John, did we get any data?"

He seemed weary and Faith felt sympathy for him. This was a side of him she hadn’t seen yet.

"We sure did Boss. Jenny's in her element right now. Her fingers are flying over the keyboard. She was saying something about a triple-hook echo..." His voice became mumbled and static took over.

Jim looked at Faith. "Did he just say 'triple-hook echo?"

When she nodded he said, "I've never heard of such a thing."

"I've heard people say it's possible but I've never even seen two, let alone three. Call her Jim,” She demanded with excitement.

Jim pulled out his cell phone and made the call. After Jenny answered he said, "did I hear John right? Did you see a triple hook echo on the radar? What does it look like?"

"It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. We have to get the warnings out now, though. I already put a call into the weather station. The storm system is developing just southeast of Wichita Falls. It's heading right for Dallas. I don't even know what a system like this is capable of. What I do know is if those systems combine it'll be the worst direct hit to a city this nation has ever seen," She warned.

"Are you sure about what you're seeing, Sis? It's possible cloud cover is causing it to look like something it isn't," Jim suggested.

"I'm pretty sure, Jim. Faith, pull out your computer and take a look," She ordered.

Shivers of fear and excitement were traveling up and down Faith's spine. She got her computer out and pulled up the satellite radar. Sure enough, she saw what looked like a triple-hook echo on the screen. Unfortunately, it looked like it was already developing into one massive storm. "It's one huge storm system with several hooks. It'll take out whole towns even if it just grazes the ground," She yelled in a panicked tone. She turned the computer so Jim could see the screen.

Jim took in a sharp breath, causing an involuntary whistle. "Oh my, let's go team," he said into the mic he'd grabbed from Faith's fingers. "We have to get in place before it gets here." He depressed the mic and said to Faith, "Hold on, we're gonna be traveling fast." He pushed the mic button down again and asked Jenny, "how fast is it moving?"

Faith was a little hurt he hadn't asked her, but she couldn't really hold it against him, she wasn't part of the team.

 "It’s traveling about fifty miles an hour," Jenny said over the radio.

Jim looked at Faith. "Let's get set-up ahead of the storm. We'll go grab some lunch and a new motel before it gets here." He said into the mic, "Team, we're going in for some lunch and a room. We'll set-up as soon as we're done."

He got several affirmative replies as he sat the mic back on its holder and headed the car toward rooms and a quick meal.

As soon as arrangements were made they set-up all their equipment and waited impatiently for the storm of a lifetime to rear its ugly head.

Faith glanced at Jim as he watched the sky, thinking, He is such a handsome man. Could he ever be interested in someone like me?

Monday, January 28, 2013

We begin a new week...

                              Here's some of God's beauty for you to enjoy!!











Chapter Six ~
 
Jim felt such a loss when Faith left the vehicle for a minute he couldn't concentrate on his driving. He'd have to haul it if he was gonna catch-up with the rest of his crew before they reached Texas. He shook his head to shake-off the odd feeling he was experiencing and punched the gas. He shoved a CD in the player and the car was filled with the deep voice of the newest country music star. He settled back against the seat and tried to concentrate on the road, but the singer was saying something about girls and all he could think about was amber-colored eyes and dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. He shook his head again and turned the CD player off, shrugging his shoulders.

He mentally struggled about calling her, but lost out. He dialed her number. "Hey Faith, just wanted to make sure everything's okay on your end. Call me when you get the chance," He said to the answering machine when she didn't pick up. He sighed and tossed the phone onto the console between the seats. His crew would tease him if they realized he had a crush on the cute little meteorologist.

                                 ***

Faith was in Michelle's office listening while she issued severe weather statements for the next day. She loved being a meteorologist, but she didn't think she'd like her sister's job. There was way too much responsibility and stress involved. She much preferred reading the radar and reporting to someone else.

When her sister finished she looked up at Faith. "Where's the footage you got? Did you enjoy chasing the storm?"

"I’ve got it right here." She handed her sister the memory card. "I did enjoy it. It was awesome. Thanks for letting me go, Shellie, I'll never forget it."

Michelle pushed the SD card into her laptop and the footage Faith had gotten appeared on the screen. She was so mesmerized but what she was seeing she didn't say a word until it was over. "Wow that was amazing. I'm gonna go show the producer. I have an idea..." She left the room.

 Faith sighed and sat down. She was tired, but too keyed-up to relax. She pulled her new laptop out of its bag and opened it up. She started analyzing the radar. The storms developing in the gulf were gonna wreak havoc on Texas tomorrow. The outer edges might even see some severe weather tonight, she decided. "Wow, I wish I could've gone to Texas with Jim." She didn't expect anyone to be in the room so she was surprised when someone spoke back.

"Maybe you can go to Texas. Do you really want to?" Marnie Jones asked her with a hopeful smile.

"Are you serious? I would love to go." She realized her rudeness and said, "I'm sorry, I was out of line."

"It's fine. Your sister brought me the footage you got and I love it. I know it seems funny to be talking about ratings for a news show, but I have to. Our ratings have been falling steadily for the last two seasons. Michelle pitched an idea to me I think would boost our ratings. She postulated we have a new show called 'Live Shots with Faith.' We would send you out and let you get extreme weather footage similar to the clip she just showed me. I really think it'll boost our ratings." She gave Faith a look of hope.

"That would be awesome, but what if the people don't like it?"

"We'll play the footage in a few minutes and see what feedback we get. I think I'll put a poll on our webpage too. That’ll give us a good indication of whether people like it or not."

"But it's really late. A lot of people are in bed already."

"That's true." Marnie tapped one long, manicured fingernail on her bright red lips. "We'll start playing it now and let it go until noon tomorrow. You go ahead and get a bag packed and catch up with that storm-chasing team. You can tag along if they don't mind, and if it turns out the public isn't crazy about the idea then you've just got a free paid vacation."

Faith could tell she was already coveting the ratings that might come from the new venture.

"My Dad's in the hospital, though. I'm supposed to pick him up and take him to my house in the morning." She felt disloyal because she really wanted to go. Her Dad needed her and she was thinking about herself instead of worrying about him. Guilt filled her.

"Faith, go pack a bag, I'll pick Daddy up tomorrow and take him to my place," Her sister said as she re-entered the room. "You've had him for years. Let me have a few days."

"Are you sure, Shellie? I know you're busy..."

"I'm sure," Shellie said. "I want to spend some quality time with Daddy, and with the farm gone I'll have the chance." Both women gave Shellie a quick look. "Okay, I know that sounded bad. I didn't mean it that way, honest. I just meant he won't be out farming."

"Okay...but you better not say something like that to him or he'll be upset," Faith warned.

Faith rushed to her house to pack a bag. She wasn't sure what to take, but knew she would need a raincoat and a hat of some kind, and maybe an umbrella. She chose some thick socks and wrote down on a piece of paper to stop at the gas station and get a bag of ice. It would be more practical to take some sodas with her than to stop every time she got thirsty. Some bottled water would be good, too.

She went to the pantry and packed another bag with emergency items like a flashlight, Band-Aids, and peroxide. She threw in a bottle of alcohol, too. Hopefully I won’t need any of this stuff. She slung the bag over her shoulder and left the kitchen.

Twenty minutes later she was on the road. She got on forty-four and headed Southwest out of Oklahoma City toward Wichita Falls. She went down through Chickasha and past Lawton. By that time she was extremely tired and caught herself nodding off several times. She decided she would turn around and go back to Lawton for the night. She'd tried to call Jim several times, but it kept going straight to his voicemail. She pulled into a motel parking lot and rented a room. She went straight to bed and was out like a light. She didn't wake up until a little past four-thirty the next morning. She jumped out of bed and got into the shower. She needed to get on the road if she was going to make Wichita Falls by daylight.

                                ****

Jim Anderson was up at four-thirty. His clock went off right on the dot. It was still dark outside and the humidity was so high his clothes were sticking to his body. He hopped in and took a quick shower before he walked over to a little diner in the same parking lot as his motel. He ordered a big breakfast because chances were he wouldn't have a chance to eat once the day got started. He was in such a hurry he didn't bother checking the messages on his phone. It lay at the bottom of his pocket, its heaviness reminding him to do so before he left for the busy day ahead.

                                  ****

Faith got dressed and rummaged around in her sack for the cloth dog carrier she took everywhere she went when the dog was with her. She'd debated whether to bring Scooby and had decided she would. She didn't relish the mess she would be faced with if she left him home alone. A tornado of her own would be her only reward for that action. She found the carrier and slung it over her head before saying, "Come here Scooby." He ran to her and jumped up in her arms, showing no ill will toward her when she tucked him into the bag. He was close to her, and that's all that mattered to him.

She picked up the rest of her bags and carried them out to the car before walking over to a little restaurant in the same parking lot the motel was in. She walked into the quaint little place and up to the scarred wooden counter. She grabbed a menu and headed toward an empty table. She still hadn't noticed the man staring at her as if she were an apparition. She sat down in the seat, arranging Scooby's bag so he was off to the side of her.

"You aren't really gonna eat with that thing attached to your side like that, are you?" A familiar masculine voice asked in amusement.

Faith looked up, right into the face of the very man she couldn't get off her mind. "Jim! Wow, I am so glad I ran into you. I tried several times last night to call you but you didn't answer the phone," She gushed in surprise. Her heart rat-a-tatted against her rib cage and she took a breath to calm it.

"You did?" He pulled his phone out and checked the missed calls. He looked up with apology in his eyes. "I'm sorry. I must not have heard it ring. I was playing music. Is something wrong?”

"No, I was just going to ask if I could tag along on your next chase. My sister showed the clips I made to the producer and she had a brainstorm idea for a new segment called 'Live Shots with Faith.' She thinks it'll boost our sagging ratings." By the time she finished she was breathless.

"I don't mind a bit. I'll have to ask my crew what they think when they get over here, though. We're a team, you understand. We're all supposed to meet here by six and it's almost that now," He said as he flipped his wrist up to glance at his watch.

"That makes sense. Do you think they’ll care?" She gave him a look of hope and changed the subject so maybe he’d quit staring at her. “I’m surprised you’re still here. I figured you’d be in Wichita Falls by now.”

“We got tired and decided to bunker down for the night.” He reached a hand out to her dog and asked, "Does he bite?"

"He might, he’s a little leery around strangers," She warned just as he put his hand under the dog's chin and scratched. The dog nuzzled up to Jim's hand like he'd known him forever.

"You're not supposed to have dogs in here," A heavy waitress informed Faith as she arrived at their table.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't even think. I can take him out to the car..." She made to get up but was stopped by Jim’s words.

"Mabel, stop that. Faith's a good friend of mine and her dog's harmless."

The way he said it let Faith know Jim knew the waitress.

"I didn’t figure it for an attack dog, I just don't like any women sitting with my man," She told him bluntly.

Faith laughed in delight and Jim looked at the waitress as if she'd gone crazy. "Mabel, you're already married. You need to stop flirting with me before Joe comes over and rearranges my face for me."

"Joe ain't gonna do no such thing. Besides, what he doesn't know won't hurt him," Mabel said as she winked at Faith.

"I think you should give him a break Mabel." Faith looked over at Jim and gave a small smirk. "I think he's taking you seriously."

"Surely he knows better by now?" Mabel asked with a worried expression on her prematurely-lined face.

"I don't think he does. I think I'll have the pancakes with bacon," Faith said without pausing. Change the subject.

Mabel wrote her order and disappeared into the kitchen behind the counter.

"She's just ribbing you. She winked at me when she was flirting so I think it's all an act she's putting on."

"Well she shouldn't do it, no matter the reason. She's a professing Christian woman."

"What's that got to do with anything?" Faith asked in confusion. "I'd rib somebody that way. There's no harm in it."

"It wasn’t meant to be that way."

 He didn't elaborate and Faith didn't argue. She was pretty sure it would end up in a disagreement and she couldn't afford to make him angry right now.

"Here they come," Faith said as she looked toward the door. Just in time.

Alex Jones was the first one through the door. Faith was immediately reminded of the reason why she hadn't cared for him. "Hey there pretty lady, what are you doing here, or do I even need to ask?" The innuendo was plain in his voice.

"Alex, I've already made it plain that your behavior toward Faith is uncalled for. Don't give me a reason to send you home. I can always give your job to her."

"I can go home right now if you want me to," Alex returned in anger. His handsome face was a picture of petulant rage.

Faith rushed to head-off a full-blown argument. "Jim, there's no need to do that. I can overlook his adolescent behavior."

"I'm not acting like an adolescent," Alex retorted as he took a step toward her.

"Yes you are. There isn't anything going on between Jim and me, and even if there were, it wouldn't be any of your business.”

                                ***

Jim's heart did a somersault at Faith's words, but he had to take control of the situation before it spiraled out of control. He'd worked with Alex for several years and this wasn't like him. What he had to do saddened him greatly, but he knew it had to be done. "Alex, go on home, you're fired. I'll send your last pay check in the mail."

"You mean you're really going to fire me over this little bit of fluff?" Alex asked incredulously.

"Yes I am, but she isn't just a bit of fluff, Alex. She's a trained meteorologist. She can be my spotter until I find a new one. I'm sorry it had to come to this." Jim’s eyes had the hard glint of finality in them.

Alex stalked off toward the SUV he'd been riding in. The rest of the crew watched in amazement as he pulled out his phone and called for a ride.

"Is there anyone else I need to have words with before we get started?" Jim asked, looking at each one of his crew members.

They looked at each other and shook their heads no.

"Is everything okay with you, boss?" Bobby Cantor asked, his forehead wrinkled in concern.

"Yes, but the way Alex womanizes has gotten on my nerves for a long time. When he started in on Faith it was the last straw. He looked at her with such tenderness Faith’s heart ached.

When he looked up, all of his people were staring at him. "What?"

"Nothing, boss," Bobby said, shooting a warning look to the others.

"Uh...not a thing..." John Haney stuttered.

"Nothing's wrong boss, really," Vince also hurried to reply.

Jim looked at them one by one until his gaze landed on his sister's. "Are you going to tell me what all this secretive stuff is about?"

"Bro, don't make me say it out loud. You know I can't lie to you, but I don't want to be embarrassing."

Jenny's eyes fell on the laptop she'd brought into the restaurant. "Jim, there's a fatty on the ground two miles North. If we hurry maybe we can fly a birdie into the swirl!" She shut the lid and picked the laptop up. She stuffed it back in the bag and headed out the door, expecting them to follow, and they did.

There was a wild scramble as everyone hurried after her.

Faith rushed out with them and stopped abruptly, not knowing where she would ride. She stood outside the restaurant door in uncertainty, waiting for Jim to say something.

"Leave it, we'll come back and get it when we're done," He said, understanding the look.

"That's fine with me." She rushed over and climbed into the passenger seat of his SUV.

He climbed in the drivers’ side and they sped out of the parking lot after the rest of the team.




Friday, January 25, 2013

This week flew by fast. Almost as fast as the action in this story!!


                      Some of my favorite pictures for your viewing enjoyment!!

















Chapter Five ~


Jim caught up with his team pretty easily and in no time they were scoping out a monster tornado.

Faith gasped when she saw it and said, "Oh my! They look so different than they do on radar, don't they? It's nowhere near as exciting to see it on a computer screen as it is to see it in real life!" She gushed as she pulled her camera up and started shooting video. She spoke quietly, but the excitement was still in her voice while she shot, "It must be nearly a mile wide! I see debris! Oh those poor people are losing their homes!" She said with the dismay clear in her tone.

She continued to take pictures after she clicked the record button to the off position. She had never been so excited in her life! The excitement was tempered with sadness at the destruction the mighty storm was causing. The turmoil inside her was hard to separate.

"It looks like its shifting Faith! We need to get out of here!" Jim yelled in warning.

Faith didn't respond. She was too busy taking pictures to notice that it had shifted direction. It was coming right for her!

"Faith we need to leave!" Jim yelled urgently now. He ran up and grabbed her and forcibly pulled her back to the SUV. He opened her door and unceremoniously shoved her inside. He ran back around to his own side and hopped in, starting the car as he did. He peeled out and backed up until he reached a side road. He backed into it and continued to back-up until they were way out of the huge twisting storm's path.

The other SUVs were already pulled back on the same road and Jim stopped a few feet in front of John Haney's. He picked up the CB mic, pushed the button on the side and said, "That was a close call guys. Did we get any data?"

"We did, boss!" John Haney returned excitedly. "Did you see how big that was?" He asked.

"Yes I saw how big it was. I also saw the debris from the damage it did." He replied. He wanted to remind them of the reality of such a storm's consequences, lest they ever forget.

"That's true boss, I'm sorry." John returned more evenly. "I just get so excited every time we see one that big that I don't immediately think of the bad part."

"I know I feel the same way. I just want the fact that people die to always be on our minds so our feet stay on the ground. They lose their homes and their livelihoods, and sometimes their relatives. That's why we do this, so that maybe we can stretch the warning time out. So we can save some of those lives." Jim said soberly.

"You're right; I for one don't ever want to lose sight of that fact. Jenny's on the data right now. She says there's another system developing about an hour from here. Should we go back and get our gear and head out?" John asked.

"That's affirmative men, let's roll." He answered as they all slowly began to pull-out of the muddy road they'd turned into to escape the storm. It had quickly dissipated after it had done its damage. It was almost like it had never been there, but the trail of destruction that it had left in its wake testified to its reality.

Jim shook his head to clear it of his thoughts and asked Faith, "Did you get some usable footage?"

"I sure did! It's even better than the last time! I love this! I can't believe I've wasted so many years sitting behind a desk." She said in awe.

"Well the people who sit behind the desks are just as important to this job as we are." He defended.

"I know they are Jim, but this is so much more exciting! I want to learn everything I can. I want to be as good as you are." She told him seriously.

"I think you are that good, you just aren't giving yourself enough credit. Just think of how many lives you've saved by tracking these storms and issuing warnings." He told her with an even look.

"Well I tracked the storms but I didn't really issue the warnings. That's my sister's job." She admitted.

"Still, don't sell yourself short. Your job is important." He said.

"I know." She said wistfully. "It's just that these last few months I've felt a discontent that I didn't understand. I mean, my job pays well and it does save lives, but it's become so tedious and predictable, ya know?" She asked. She was trying to convey her feelings to him but felt she was failing miserably.

"I know what you mean Faith. Some people are happier with more excitement in their lives. I happen to be one of those people." He told her with an understanding smile.

"I guess I am too, I just didn't realize it until now. I mean, I've spent my whole adult life sitting behind a desk and I thought that's what I really wanted, but since I saw that first tornado up close and personal my whole outlook on life has changed. Do you think that's wrong?" She asked earnestly.

"No I don't. I think that as people age they go through different growth spurts. They become more emotionally mature and their intelligence grows along the way. Sometimes, their needs and desires change, too. I believe as long as you follow God you can't go wrong." He finished. His tone was hesitant, like he was fishing for the answer to a question but didn't want to push too hard.

"I...don't know about all that God stuff. I mean, I believe in Him, I just don't know if I want to follow all his rules and regulations. There are some pretty confusing stories in the Old Testament that I don't understand, either. I just don't know if I can love a God like that." She answered as truthfully as she could.

"You can't sit on a fence forever Faith. If you only call on God in times of trouble then he might not pay attention to you at all." He warned her in a kindly tone.

"I know that. When that tornado came through my Dad's property the first thing I thought of to do was pray to Him, and then again later when I shot my first video, but now I'm right back in that state of confusion that keeps me at arm's length. Do you know what I mean?" She asked.

Jim liked the fact that she was searching for the answers. That was better than not thinking about God at all. "I do know what you mean and if you have any questions about God or the Bible feel free to ask me. If I can't answer them I'll call my pastor and ask him. Between all of us we'll find the answers you're looking for if we can." He offered sincerely. Hope soared in his chest at her interest.

"Thanks Jim I really appreciate that." She said with a smile. "It's nice to know someone cares about my soul."

"Oh I do care about your soul, but God cares even more. Do you have a Bible?" He asked.

"I did have one but it was at my Dad's." She said with a guilty expression.

"How long have you lived on your own?" Jim asked her as he pulled back into the motel parking lot. They had to grab their things and go for the next tornado.

"I've been on my own for seven years." She said with another sheepish grin.

"You need to read your Bible!" Jim told her in a shocked voice. He was astounded that she'd lived on her own for seven years and hadn't bothered to bring her Bible from her Dad's. No wonder she was confused!!

A shiver of alarm went through Faith's body at his tone. "I'm sorry. I know I should read it but that Old Testament just got to me and I can't seem to make myself go any further." She tried to excuse herself.

"That's just an excuse honey." He told her gently as he turned toward her in the car. "If you want, I can study with you. I can even set up a meeting for you with my pastor if you think that might help." He offered again.

"I don't think I'm ready for anything that drastic yet. Maybe we could read together or something. We'll see how it goes." She told him with finality.

He stopped trying to pressure her, that's not what she needed and he didn't want to scare her away.

She got out of the car and walked toward her room. He watched her go, knowing it was too late to guard his heart from this woman who'd wormed her way into his life faster than he'd been able to build a barrier to keep her at bay. He had been praying for a wife, maybe God had sent Faith to him, in more ways than one. In his own mind the play on words was enough to convince him that that was exactly what had happened. He got out of the car with a secret smile on his handsome face. He went toward his own room to gather his things and get ready for the next run.

When Faith got back out to the car Jim was already sitting in it. He had a map out and was studying it intently. She slid into the passenger seat after throwing her bag in the back. "Do you think my car will be safe here?" She asked worriedly. It wasn't a fancy machine but it was all she had and she didn't want to lose it.

"It'll be just fine. I already called Chuck. He's the manager here. I told him to keep an eye on it. Now all you have to worry about is the tornadoes." He teased her with a wide grin. It brightened his baby-blue eyes and made Faith's heart take a flip.

"I didn't see any more weather headed this way..." She said uncertainly.

"There isn't any that I know of, I was just kidding. But you know how it is around here." He told her as he started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. There was nothing around but farm land and red dirt so Faith laid her head back against the seat because it didn't quite reach the headrest. She tried to doze, but it didn't last long. A few minutes after shutting her eyes she felt the air pressure in the car change. Her eyes flew open to see what was going on. She was astounded by the sight of trees ripping from the ground out her side window. There was debris flying everywhere and she hastened to get her camera up in a position to take it all in. "Wow that was quick! I just looked at the radar before I closed my eyes and didn't see a thing!" She exclaimed excitedly.

"It happens that way sometimes. We can't always tell when a system will drop a twister, or even where for that matter." He answered as his grip tightened on the steering wheel.

Faith could just make out the other bright red vehicles through the dust and debris. It looked like they were slowing to a stop. "What's going on, we need to get out of the way!" She yelled loudly.

"They're going to turn right up ahead. There's a small service road that's hardly ever used. It should bring us up beside it, but still out of its direct path. You should be able to get some awesome footage." He said evenly. He was used to this kind of thing and it showed.

"Oh, I see." She said finally. Embarrassment colored her face a bright red. She felt like a little kid now. "I thought you were going to stop, I'm sorry."

"Nope, I was just turning to get out of the way." He said as he looked over at her. He saw that her face was red and made an effort to ignore it. "We've been doing this for a long time Faith. We make mistakes, but not very often." He said in a soft tone. He didn't want to make her any more uncomfortable than she already was.

"There it is!" She gushed loudly. Jim looked up and a big rope twister was right in front of them. Faith was already recording it.

"This is a nice huge rope. I've never seen one so big!" She said for the video's sake. "It's so awesome to be so close to something that's this beautiful, and dangerous." She interjected with a voice full of awe.

"Faith, look to the left!" Jim said in excitement. There was another tornado coming out of the same wall cloud. It was massive in size, much bigger than the rope and it was wedge-shaped.

"Oh wow! That's so beautiful. It isn't hard to believe in God at all when we can see such evidence of his power." Faith said quietly in an even more hushed tone.

"It certainly isn't. I just wish people would quit attributing the power of God to some false idol called 'mother nature.' He has to be angry about that one." Jim returned with disapproval written all over his face.

"I bet he is. It's times like these that I don't have a problem acknowledging His existence. I just can't understand some of the stuff that went on in the Old Testament. It's a stumbling block for me." She told him after she turned the video recorder off.

"I meant what I said earlier. We can study together if you really want to, Faith. I'll do whatever it takes if it means you'll come to know the truth." He told her earnestly as he pulled out and headed toward Texas.

Three hours passed by pretty quickly as they drove down U.S. two-eighty-seven going south. They made small-talk and got to know each other a little better. They talked about every impersonal thing that they could think of and the time passed quickly

. Jim had just told her he was about ready for some lunch when a huge wedge tornado dropped down to the west of them. It didn't last long but he saw his chasers rushing to deploy some of the little electronic pieces into it that he lovingly called his 'bugs.' They collected all kinds of data about the tornado itself, including wind speed and velocity. His hope was that he could extend the warning time to more than just a few minutes.

 They sat together and watched the funnel do its damage to the countryside. Jim picked up the mic to the CB and pushed the side button in. "John, did we get any data?" He asked. He seemed weary and Faith felt sympathy for him. This was a side of him that she'd never seen.

"We sure did Boss. Jenny's in her element right now. Her fingers are flying over that keyboard. She was saying something about a triple-hook echo..." His voice became mumbled and static took over.

Jim looked at Faith in alarm, his weariness was immediately gone and a thinly-veiled excitement took its place. "Did he just say 'triple-hook echo?" He asked. When she nodded her head in the affirmative he said, "I've never heard of such a thing!"

"I've heard people say that it's possible but I've never even seen two, let alone three! Call her Jim, hurry!" She demanded with excitement of her own obvious in her voice. She smiled at him wryly. He totally understood!

Jim pulled out his cell phone and made the call. After Jenny answered he said, "did I hear John right? Did you see a triple hook echo on the radar? What does it look like?" He fired into the phone as he put it on speaker so Faith could hear what she was saying, too.

"It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen! We have to get the warnings out now, though. I already put a call into the weather station. The storm system is developing just southeast of Witchita Falls! It's heading right for Dallas! I don't even know what such a system is even capable of! What I do know is if those systems combine it'll be the worst direct hit to a city this nation has ever seen!" She warned ominously.

"Are you sure about what you're seeing Sis? It's possible that cloud cover is causing it to look like something it isn't." Jim said logically.

"I'm pretty sure Jim. Faith, pull out your computer and take a look!" She ordered urgently.

Shivers of fear and excitement were traveling up and down Faith's spine. She didn't know the girl well but she'd already gleaned enough knowledge about her to know she was probably correct in her reading of the radar map. She got her computer out and pulled up the satellite radar. Sure enough, she saw what looked like a triple-hook echo on the screen. Unfortunately it looked like it was developing into one massive storm already. "It's just one huge storm system with several hooks! If this thing drops a tornado what size would it even be, and what kind of damage would it do?" She mused out loud absentmindedly. "It'll take out whole towns even if it just grazes the ground!" She yelled in a panicked tone. She turned the computer so that Jim could see the screen.

Jim took in a big breath that caused an involuntary whistle to come out. "Oh my, let's go team!" Jim said into the mic he'd grabbed from Faith's fingers. "We have to try to get in place before it gets here!" He depressed the mic and said to Faith, "Hold on, we're gonna be traveling fast!" He pushed the mic button down again and asked Jenny, "how fast is it moving?"

Faith was a little hurt that he hadn't asked her but she couldn't really hold it against him, she wasn't part of the team yet. He already knew Jenny was good.

 "According to my radar reading it's traveling at about fifty miles an hour." Jenny said over the radio.

Jim looked at Faith and said, "Let's get set-up ahead of the storm. We'll go grab some lunch and a new motel before it gets here." Jim said authoritatively into the mic, "Team, we're going in for some lunch and a room. We'll set-up as soon as we're done."

He got several affirmative replies as he sat the mic back on its holder and headed the car toward a little spot he knew where they could rent rooms and eat a quick meal.

They went and rented rooms for the night and grabbed lunch at a fast food restaurant before getting in a good position ahead of the storm.

They checked all their equipment and waited impatiently for the storm of a lifetime to rear its ugly head.