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.