Wild indeed! An April-like journey into magnificent thunderheads, breath taking lightning shows, wall clouds, funnels, white out wind whipped rains, rainbows, and capping the day with a potent tornado.
Thank God it’s a Saturday, and my schedule allows me to finally set my spirit free and go on a solo storm chase into the wildness erupting across east Texas. I had been hungering for an opportunity like this for many months.
Tender April-like air; buoyant, warm and moist provides lift for supercells blossoming in the early afternoon. With the profoundly fast upper air flow, storms move up to 50 mph off to the north and northeast, so my strategy is to get myself well north of the storms in advance of their arrival, and intercept them, then run with them like a caught bullet pass interception and multi yard dash in football.
During this journey into celestial wildness, I listen closely to spiritual guidance, which comes as a combination of intuition and a voice within. Science in terms of excellent radar service via the Radarscope application, tracking my route through Garmin, and the visuals across the sky balance this all out.
The result is an exquisite journey, and I intercept two out of three tornado warned storms which show up on the map just before my chase begins.
After intercepting tornado warned supercells in Greenville and Sulphur Springs, TX, through intuition/spiritual guidance I make a beeline for the Rockwall area from Sulphur Springs, TX in time to catch the wedge tornado racing across Dallas County.
This type of freedom to chase brings tremendous joy, awe and wonder to my soul.
The tornado was one of the top four amazing things I’ve personally experienced in my entire life. On a personal level, it was a sacred or transcendent experience and prayer answered.
Once I returned home and heard that some people perished in the tornado, I also sent a steady stream of prayers to the afflicted families for healing and God’s powerful support as they grieve their losses.
This also reignited my passion to inspire a national conversation about building storm safe homes here in Tornado Alley (we have three different options of homes), and in general as a species, learn to build in harmony with our ecology.
Photo: Approaching the Greenville area supercell, a rainbow opens up before me. I take this as a good omen for the chase.
I depart Garland under partly cloudy skies that are filled with cumulus. Distant anvil clouds across my east horizon beckon to me, and already there are three tornado warned storms hugging the I-20 area and southward from there in that direction. Under normal circumstances, with slow moving storms, I would drive down towards I-20 then northeast. However with storms moving northwards up to 50 MPH, my first goal is to intercept one in Greenville then the next off to the east in Sulphur Springs.
Photo: After penetrating blinding rains and winds gusting to around 50 MPH, I punch through the storm and capture this supercell and wall cloud about 5 miles east of Greenville. Photo looking west..
I’m in awe of this cloud’s beauty; this is something more commonly seen in the high Prairies during tornado season. And, like spring, lovely buoyant tender balmy air embraces me and encourages me to lift right upwards in spirit into the still blossoming clouds. During my intercept, my heart beats a little harder, as my cell phone blasts out a tornado warning for the immediate area, and Garmin shows me right in the middle of the box. Quite a powerful time.
Next my eyes turn southeastward, towards this magnificent supercell thunderhead, topped with knuckle-like towers more common to spring and early summer. My spirit sings with joy as I witness this splendor and anticipate an intercept. This storm also has a tornado warning on it and moves northeast at 45 MPH. We should meet in or near Sulphur Springs.
Getting closer to a celestial communion! Captured about 15 miles west of Sulphur Springs.
I marvel at the beauty of celestial mountains unfolding before me.
As I come closer to this supercell, breath taking lightning bolts leap before me from cloud top to earth. I clap my hands in sheer joy. This photo is taken about three miles west of Sulphur Springs. Tornado sirens blare out, barely heard above the din of highway traffic beside me. The thought and words “Glory be Unto God” come to me as I sit face to face with these potent cloud mountains and lightning bolts.
The much anticipated wall cloud or parent cloud for potential tornado appears before me, rotating low above the horizon. Photo looking southeast.
Here is the long shot of the wall cloud and parent storm as it crosses I-30. Just south of the interstate, I observe powerful movement in this cloud, but part is blocked by trees. I could have gone down a side road with a better view a couple blocks away, but as fast as the storm is moving, I choose to stay put then return to I-30 from my frontage road vantage place so I could position as needed. Occasional needle funnels dip just below the rotating cloud.
Here is a crop of the prior photo, showing the wall cloud crossing I-30. Needle funnels, like those in this photo swiftly appear then disappear back into the main cloud. Photo taken a couple miles east of Sulphur Springs.
This photo shows where the wall cloud meets the rotor -like parent thunderstorm.
The supercell swiftly presses off to my northeast. It breathes, with some cloud tops collapsing and others still growing heaven-ward. With dusk swiftly approaching and guidance to turn around and begin my trek back toward Dallas, I do a U-turn and head back west. As dusk envelopes, this cloud drops a dramatic wall cloud and funnel formation over the horizon. Two county sheriff cars sit side by side along the highway monitoring this formation.
Just west of Sulphur Springs, I drive through blinding rains as a dramatic storm overtakes the highway. Meanwhile, Radarscope shows several tornado warnings in the south and central Dallas area. It’s very important to me that I get to the Rockwall area ASAP, so I could intercept these storms as they move towards my direction.
Back to back tornado warnings are called for Dallas County, and the storms are approaching my neighborhood. My phone lights up as friends call me for consultation, but my plan is to call them later as I’m on a mission. I do call my wife and leave a voice mail message reminding her of our tornado safety procedures. A warning for my neighborhood brings some concern, but I’m told by spirit that my neighborhood is safe, I’m safe and “relax and enjoy the show”.
As I continue west a magnificent lightning display unfolds before me with breath taking splendor. This so reminds me of Prairie chases during tornado season, and really brings inspiration.
The Richardson-Garland area comes under a tornado warning as one of the warned storms approaches the area. In addition a tornado on the ground is declared for the Cockrell Hill suburb of south Dallas. I’m expecting that this storm, or one just northeast of it is the storm I will be intercepting west of Rockwall.
As soon as I drop down the hill going west out of Rockwall, I notice the silhouette of something not normally on the horizon. Immediately I recognize it’s a tornado. Utter awe and fascination fills my being, and I immediately pull over for assurance of safety. For a moment I feel concern that it might head directly towards me, but Spirit assures me I’m safe and can relax and watch. Immediately thereafter awe, wonder and amazement beyond words fills my being as I witness this celestial event.
A power flash lights up the tornado, revealing rotation. I am in complete and total awe. It’s like a scene from the movie Twister, and I’ve never seen a tornado so big in my entire life. Words simply can’t describe the immense awe I feel.
The tornado passes to my northwest, illuminated by an occasional power flash, and proceeded by an occasional spectacular lightning bolt.
Tornado moving through Rowlett, TX. At this point it’s only about one mile away. Photo taken from I-30, west of Rockwall.
Once it’s moved safely on, I continue the trip, and take the 190 exit back towards my neighborhood.
I come across some debris on the first part of 190, and wonder about those neighborhoods. Off over the horizon the tornado continues, only occasionally visible through trees, and lit by either distant power flashes or a lightning flash. (I later find out that this was probably one of the two other tornadoes which came later and rolled through parts of Collin County. This too, at least the part I saw, was a wedge)
When I arrive home, I see that indeed my neighborhood is safe as is my wife. I’m in tears of awe when I recount to her the power of the tornado I witnessed. How it was almost otherworldly.
A friend of mine who lives not far west of Greenville calls and we are on the phone as she witnesses what we think is the same tornado that moved through Garland and Rowlett. It turns out that this is a different tornado. She too is in tears of awe as she watches and describes it to me.
Later in the evening, I hear about the casualties and damage to homes, and my prayers and condolences begin for those who were affected.