Frosted Country Side: #abstorm 

Hey everyone, quick little blog here. Went out for a rip this morning through central Alberta, the Eckville/Medicine Valley area to be exact, and what I was treated to was a winter wonderland. 


Days of fog had left almost every structure, tree, shrub, fence and even powerline covered in a cake icing-like cocoon. Rime ice has taken over! It was stunning to see in person and I hope these pictures show how beautifully encased the countryside has become.

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#Alberta’s Fiery #Sunrise: Nov 11, 2016

As i wake up now adays, to screaming children more often than an alarm clock, I have come to charish a few things. My morning single cup, brewed coffee, a strole through my Twitter feed and an almost always beautiful sunrise. 

For two weeks now, most Albertans have been treated to warm Pacific air, as chinook winds funnel warmth over the Rockies. Cloud decks and chinook arches are left to be kissed by the sun every morning, projecting reds, oranges, yellows and pinks across the sky. 

Heres what I saw this morning near Condor, Alberta. 

Caroline Supercell – August 16, 2016

Well as our storm season comes to an end here in Alberta, a chaser really needs to take advantage of any storm systems that come into the province. Last evening, a weak cold front trigger a MCS line near Camrose, while firing off a multitude of discrete supercells from Caroline to Cochrane. 

A single storm (pictured above) began to form just NW of Caroline, AB around supper time. At first it didnt look like much as you can see. A few CG lightning strikes and a rumble or two of thunder was all you could say was positive about this “storm”. Being discete as it was, I decided to turn away from the MCS in the north and focus on this cell, hoping for the best. 

About 20 mins after the first shot I took of this storm, a rotating mesocyclone was becoming evident. As you can see in the above picture, rotation was quite visible at higher levels but a high base signaled the chance of tornadoes was low. None-the-less, the chase was on. 

The storm was quite beautiful, taking on many shapes. At times a lowering would be seen reminiscent of a wall cloud and I was also treaded to a brief, horse shoe-like vortice which I personally had never seen before (I know, if theres no picture. It never happened. But it DID!).

This was the last picture I took before I “ran out” of gas. I had enough to make it home but thats it. Luckily for me the storm itself also ran out of gas and quickly died after this shot. 

In mid August, in Alberta, a chaser really knows if you get any storms such as this one, you’re very luck. The atmosphere really doesnt support the same type of storms you see in July and the days grow much shorter in. But, it was a short and sweet chase. I guess I’ll be greedy and hope for one more chase like this one before the leaves turn, the days grow cooler and winter knocks at my door. 

Chase Log: The Eckville Hailer

I’m gonna start this post out with some honesty. I feel like I’ve missed a lot of the best storms this year with this on-going economic down turn due to oil prices plummeting. Ive become a stay at home Dad, while my wife has become the main income in our family. Dont get me wrong, I value the time Im getting with the munchkins, but for a man obsessed with storms and storm chasing, it’s killing me inside missing all these storms I’d normally be bagging. Anyhow, back to the post. 

I was lucky enough to basically chase in my own backyard earlier in July. A few storms formed over the foothills and move toward the HWY2 corridor in central Alberta. Most of the action was down south, near Calgary, as it has been all year but I was unable to commit to that area. 

The storms I saw were slightly strong. They packed hail and wind as well as a small amount of broad rotation but they just couldnt become organised. The storm shelfed out pretty early in its lifecycle, but even that was fairly weak looking. 

The video above shows views from inside the core of the storm. Luckily the “StormFX” is armored in Bullet Liner, so develing into hail cores are always a possibility. Now when the hail gets to be golfball sized or better, I still think twice before ever entering a core like that. Protection or not! 

The Farmers Edge (www.farmersedge.ca) weather station has been a blessing this year. The combination of real time surface data from the truck and the opportunity to see the same data, but on a larger scale via the Farm Command app, has been extremely valuable. It also took dime to nickle sized hail with ease, which shows the ruggedness of this product. 

Hoping for a few more chases this year as the storm season winds down over the next couple weeks. 

Storm Tracks: Blog 11 – “Jimbo’s Elevator Doesn’t Go To the Top”

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Jimbo’s Elevator Doesn’t Go to the Top

Severe storms seem to lead to life altering events in the Johnson Clan. Here’s another storm experience relating how the power of weather can create a little drama in our lives.

The Good Wife has often accused me as being the King of Elevator Talk.

You know the “Nice weather today!” kind of babble with no substance. This is particularly true when I meet someone new. I’d rather call it a feeling out period of “how ya doin’ how are yas.” I’m not likely to discuss the in’s and the outs of the human genome with someone I just met.

When it comes to actual elevators I’m usually as quiet as a church mouse, eyes forward (watching the ascending or descending numbers), and as still as a statue. Don’t talk to me in there because I’ll just snap, “Can’t you see I’m watching the numbers!”

Indeed, because of my claustrophobia I’d just as soon take the stairs no matter how many floors the building has. There are few exceptions to this “Elevator Rule.”

The proof of this rule is as follows.

There were lots of thunderstorms while we were in Kentucky for a basketball tournament a few summers ago. In fact, a small tornado brushed by the Kentucky State Fairgrounds in Lexington where the tournament was being held. It was also very hot.

Too bad the ice machines on floor #1 and #4 of our hotel weren’t working. I did discover that the one on floor #8 was in perfect working condition. I got my ice there the first night but followed the “ELEVATOR RULE” to the letter. I hoofed it.

You see, you don’t drink Bourbon without ice, especially in Kentucky. I made that trek without incident

The next morning, however, I had to take the trip in order to get ice for our little cooler. We had a short timeline so I had to bite the bullet, as it were. There was no time to struggle up and down eight flights. Of course, the thunder storms were rumbling again in the distance.

So, I stepped gingerly into that elevator and pressed Floor 8. My silent prayer included just one request, “Please, Lord, get me up and down without incident!”

Oh my god – as soon as the elevator started moving, the lights went out; the elevator shook and then stopped. There was no light. It was as black as coal mine. I was living my worst nightmare. The damn hydro had gone out.

I was stuck in the dark in a confined space and experienced classic CLAUSTERPHOBIA SYNDROME to the MAX.

Did I scream? Well I guess.

“HHHHEEEEEELLLLLPPPPP ME!” I hollered. My voice had the pitch of a bellowing banshee – but incredibly louder.

I tried to pull myself together. But I had thoughts of lightning striking a transformer and the hydro being down for hours. I remembered the outside temperature was 100 degrees F. The air conditioner was off. I could stuck be in this spot for hours. This could become the sweat box from hell.

I felt around with my hands and started pressing every button I could find. As if the walls were braille, I moved my fingers looking for that emergency phone box.

All the while I hollered, “HHHHEEEEEELLLLLPPPPP ME!”

I dropped to my knees thinking that any cool air might be nestled there. I was fully prepared to strip off my clothes and lay on my back.

I could see the headlines, “CANADIAN SENIOR FOUND NAKED IN KENTUCKY ELEVATOR: POLICE INVESTIGATING.”

But, first I screamed long and loud, “HHHHEEEEEELLLLLPPPPP ME, PPPPLLLLEEEEAAASSSSEEEE!”

I heard a voice from the other side of the doors, a voice with a Spanish accent say, “Sir, I tink you stuck in der!”

One of the maids was right there inches from me through the inoperable doors. All that separated me from my rescuer was an electrical current. Oh, the humanity of it all.

Suddenly, the lights flashed on and off several times and the elevator jolted and the door opened. I had moved up exactly one floor –maybe 12 feet.

“Welcome to Floor #2,” the maid smiled. “You look a little pale, meester. You wan me to take yor arm or somthin?”

Without responding, I turned and I literally ran up the eight floors to get my ice. No matter, my heart was already pounding like a jackhammer fully preparing me for this flight – fight response. Then another headline dawned on me. “MAN WITH ICE BUCKET FOUND IN STAIRWELL DEAD FROM CARDIAC ARREST: POLICE INVESTIGATING.”

I slowed down to a crawl and took those final flights at turtle speed.

In the end, I guess there was a power failure and, of course, it was caused by a severe storm. Heck, it almost led to heart failure for me.

But, on the bright side, all of my trips up those eight flights of stairs probably got me into incredible shape.

NOT!

Written by: Jim Johnson

First Chase of 2016 – A Short Picture Blog

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Severe thunderstorm near Eckville, Alberta 06/07/2016

Well the ice is broken. For most of us chasers in Alberta, yesterday was the first true chase of the 2016 storm season and we were treated to a decent thunderstorm event. Storms developed over the southern and central foothills and then spread east into the highway 2 corridor and over great road networks.

Last week my cell phone had some software issues, forcing me to send it back and get new one. Typically on chase days I try to focus on documenting these storms then relaying them to the public via social media on said cellphone, but yesterday I had to chase without data or any way to warn the public. This is something i haven’t done in years. You see, many chasers, including myself, rely on data while we chase storms. Through modern technology, storm chasers are able to check radar images, surface data and road networks via cellphones, tablets and computers. But yesterday i went data-less and it ended up working out.

The first storm I decided to chase formed just northwest of Sundre, Alberta. Though  it did possess some hail, there wasnt much to the storm itself. I followed it until Bowden, where I decided to head further north where better dew points were earlier in the afternoon.

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Sundre thunderstorm in early stages of development. Shot near Stauffer, Alberta.

The storms that where setting up north of highway 11, seemed to be taping into a better environment and you could see some  of the characteristic of a severe thunderstorm from many miles away. Upon approach, the first cell was just passing over Eckville and had some beautiful structure too it. A noticeable shelf cloud had began to form as the storm moved toward Sylvan Lake, highlighted with some blue and green color. The thunder was almost consent as the storm hovered over the lake, but quickly died.

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Fingered shelf cloud as is passed over farmland near Sylvan, Lake.

In the outflow of the dying storm, I could see another storm forming. This one had even more beautiful structure than it’s parent storm and was developing very rapidly. It really was the best storm of the day for me. Overall it was a great chase, even without the data. Ive definitely been spoiled over the past few years with have data at my finger tips.Will I chase without data again? Probably. Did I miss it? BIG TIME! Either way I cant stop, wont stop.

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Last storm of the night near Hespero, Alberta

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Storm Tracks – Blog 10: “The Puke-nami and The Huron Gale”

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THE PUKE-NAMI AND LAKE HURON GALE

I THINK YOU GONNA CHI-CHI, MON

A few Octobers ago my daughter, The Smurf, and I flew out to Alberta to help my son Matt and his wife Lynsey drive across Canada and back to Ontario. It was a great trip but our very last day became an amazing adventure and somewhat scary.

Let me explain.

We all decided we wanted to take the Chichimon ferry from Port Baymouth to Tobermory. The ferry ride is about 2 hours in length and the Lake Huron crossing from Manitoulin Island to Tobermory saves a lot of white-knuckle rock-cut driving through Northern Ontario.

This would be our touristy- last kick at the cat. We had driven by so many interesting places but didn’t have time to stop. Many suggested that the drive through Sudbury really wasn’t that bad but, we were determined to take the nautical route.

I actually received a text from my nephew, Justin, saying, “Maybe you’d better take the road route because it’s going to be windy and the ferry might be closed.” Justin is an Environmental Scientist and knows the weather well.

He was worrying about us from a great distance. The only problem was that I got that message just as we were pulling out of port.

OOOOOPSY!

As the ship pulled out, we were in the shelter of some islands so all was calm, cool and collected. Indeed, the cafeteria opened and a huge line formed to purchase greasy-spoon type dishes and the like. Mounds of fries and poutine were being consumed at an alarming rate. Bellies were being filled to the max and all of this washed down with soda and strong coffee.

So what happened was our little touristy side trip turned out to be much like a ride on the Edmond Fitzgerald or the Titanic. Once out of the protection of those islands, all hell broke loose. Twenty-eight knot winds from the Northeast whipped up waves of mammoth proportions. The weather reports later described this as a NEAR GALE FORCE WIND. That kind of wind can churn up 15 to 20 foots swells, I’m told.

As the rocking turned to barrel rolls, I was beginning to think that the ship’s name was given from a Jamaican expression, as in, “You look like you’re gonna Chi Chi, mon!” Remember our

passenger manifest included those who had wolfed down massive amounts of food and drink and what goes down, must come up, right.

When I was standing in the gift shop I had to scramble to keep by balance; literally running to get my feet to stop.

The trip over open water was incredibly rocky and so the voyage soon produced a, “Puke-nam-ee” of major proportions.

Small children were screaming, and people were lying on the benches or crouched over barf bags. When Matt went to the washroom every stall contained a bowl hugger.

The ferry support staffs were handing out barf bags and cold J-clothes to those that were feeling ill, which was about 90% of the people onboard. Most people’s faces displayed the skin colour of a cadaver. This would be a roller coaster ride that would last OVER two hours.

The lady in the gift shop told me this was the worst possible wind direction –North East. The only wind that would be worse would be Southeaster. In that case the ship would be left sitting in port.

While we were holding on in the gift shop a huge banging sound and a bump occurred. The ship lurched and went up and down and sideways all at the same time. As you might imagine we all went white. I said what was that and the little old lady behind the counter said, “Don’t worry that’s just the huge waves crashing on the side of the ship.”

OMG! Get me off of here.

This was reminiscent of a ride we had a few years ago on the Diamond Princess as we navigated Alaska’s Inland Passage. However, the ferry we were riding now might have fit nicely into one of that cruise ships pools. And, at least on the Diamond Princess, passengers could retreat to their cabins to regurgitate.

Not here, my friends, as the entire scene was in-your-face and up close and personal.

UUUUUUGGGGGG!

Poor Dolly, the young couple’s dog, was required to remain down in the hold in the truck for the trip. It was 6 degrees and we would have had to stay on deck with her for the voyage. With all that rain and rocking and rolling I think we would have been washed overboard anyway.

Near the end of the trip I felt as if we were in a disaster movie. People were screaming and moaning and had looks of terror in their eyes. That’s about the time they told us to head down to our vehicles because we were heading in to port.

The Smurf was feeling sick and now that we were sitting in the car, she felt claustrophobic. You could still feel the ship rolling, the cars were moving, despite their E-brakes being engaged and the banging and crashing sounds were echoing all around us.

She said to me, “I gotta get out of here, dad!”

The panic in her eyes and the fear her voice had anxiety attack written all over it.

I was hoping my daughter wasn’t just like my wife. You see, a few years back the good wife jumped to the dock from a dinner cruise boat before it had landed. It was a broad jump of mammoth proportions. Indeed, I guy at a table near me said, “Wow, did you see that broad jump?”

And, by the way, her last words to me that day were, “I gotta get out of here, Jim!”

In the end, we disembarked in Tobermory in hurricane force winds. Nevertheless, we all came out of this experience unscathed. We did sit in our vehicles for about 45 minutes after disembarking. Many others I fear were still dis-em-BARFING.

Some of you might feel I used dramatic license in writing this little piece. Well, if you click the link below, you too can experience the “Puke-nam-ee” and feel like you’re are about to, “Chi-Chi, mon!”

YOU CAN VIEW THAT STORM HERE ON YOUTUBE

You can see we had quite a ride. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y98NUEf9VOY

Written by: Jim Johnson

Storm Tracks – Blog 9: “Forever Connected: The Wonder of Technology”

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FOREVER CONNECTED: THE WONDERS OF TECHNOLGY

We’ll take a bit of an aside here and try to give you an appreciation of what it’s like to be related to a storm chaser. This entire event recounts how modern technology has made storm analysis and storm chasing more of an exact science. It also speaks to the fact that media connection makes a world of difference in term s of storm safety and disaster warning systems.

The incident occurred during March 2008 as we were returning from our annual March Break vacation in central Florida (Lake Wales). We had planned to leave early Saturday morning because we wanted to watch some of the SEC Tournament basketball games Friday night. Those games were being televised from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It should be noted that Matt was living thousands of miles away in Alberta at that time and was not accompanying us on this vacation.
WIKI describes what happened during the game this way. “During overtime of the Friday night quarterfinal between Mississippi State and Alabama, a tornado hit the Georgia Dome at 9:40 p.m. The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning at 9:26 p.m., because radar indicated a thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado. The storm tore open a panel on the north side of the dome; sheared bolts and insulation fell into the arena. After the storm passed, the teams returned to the court at 10:30 and completed the game.” Nevertheless, remaining games in the tournament had to be transferred to the campus of the University of Georgia.

Early Saturday morning as we loaded the vehicle I watched the morning news. It appeared as if a lot of the damage from the tornado was in downtown Atlanta. I can’t deny that I was excited that we’d be driving through Atlanta about seven hours hence. That old feeling of anticipation was welling up inside me. Little did we know that we would be driving into more severe weather in Georgia that afternoon? It was March 15th, 2008.

But here’s how technology and communication assisted us in avoiding tragic circumstances. We drove through Atlanta without incident but we did note that the damage was obvious and in some cases severe. Just as we were leaving the city on Interstate 75 my phone buzzed that I had received a text message. It was from Matt and it declared emphatically that we were heading north into a front that was producing tornadic activity. Looking ahead of us we could see just how ominous the atmosphere appeared.
Matt suggested we turn our radio to a local station and that we did. The blare of those tornado warnings from the speaker put an icy chill up our spines. Each warning was followed by a report describing where the tornado(s) were tracking. All the while Matt was texting us information and giving us updates based on the radar he had up on his phone and his expertise interpreting the data he was receiving. We had our GPS screen and a paper map of Georgia to reference our location as we travelled.
From thousands of miles away in Calgary, Alberta Matt was directing our drive and telling us whether or not it was safe to go forward.

At times we were told to exit I75 and wait out severe storms that were passing north of us. Al of this was accomplished using technology such cell phones, weather APPS and our onboard GPS system.
As it turned out the storms were severe that day and tornadic activity was plentiful. There were several tornados that touched down, ranging from EF0 to EF3.  I do remember the warnings for Polk, Bartow and Floyd counties because Polk and Bartow are also names of counties near Lake Wales Florida. We were just south of this area at one point and learned later that a tornado had passed through only about 15 minutes before we were travelling in that local. WIKI reports that there were “2 deaths – Large wedge tornado destroyed at least 20 houses and damaged hundreds of others. Thousands of trees were knocked down across three counties. Two others were injured.”

So in this technological age it pays to have a storm chaser in the family. Indeed, it might just provide you with weather protection and your own personal warning system. I still find it amazing that Matt was sitting in Calgary, Alberta using technology to do some virtual storm chasing while at the same time directing us safely through a severe weather event. You can use this WIKI link to see how widespread those March 15th storms were in Georgia and how much damage was incurred. We really dodged a bullet that day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Atlanta_tornado_outbreak

Even to this day I will receive texts from Matt in Alberta warning me of severe weather as it approaches our location here in Southern Ontario. And do you know what? That connection surely provides comfort for us given that we live in a rural area. This truly is a “distant warning system” for us.

Storm Tracks – Blog 8: “The Norwich Tornado”

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THE NORWICH TWISTER

I remember this day as if it was yesterday. At the time I was teaching at Teeterville Public School in rural Norfolk County. It was bus pick up time on June 7 1998, around 3:15 in the afternoon, and the kids were being piled on to the nine buses that came and went every day. The sky to the northwest was one of the most ominous skies I had ever seen. Black as pitch, with hues of pink and green these clouds appeared like dark smoke from a chemical fire, not unlike that of the Hagersville tire- fire of 1990.

The buses rolled out on schedule that day even though many of us had apprehension. We were assured that none of the buses were going anywhere close to the storm, given that our feeder area was in the opposite direction. The thunder storm that passed Teeterville about 20 minutes later was a severe one, nonetheless. For about 10 minutes the sky became black as night, with heavy downpours, violent winds and thunder that rocked the earth like earth tremors. The hydro flickered and went off and on several times. I waited out the weather before jumping in the care and heading home.

My drive home is about 20 minutes, and when I walked in the door, Matt greeted me with, “Dad, there was a tornado in Norwich. Let’s go.” He was seventeen at the time and fully engaged in analyzing the wonders of storm phenomena. We had to wait a bit before heading out, my 8 year old daughter and 4 year old son needed to be watched until mom came home. As it turned out, we didn’t hit the road until after 5:30 pm.

Immediately we knew that there was major damage because every access road going into the small town was blocked with barriers and manned by an OPP police cruiser. Even at that, peering down these roads we could see trees that had be felled blocking the road as well as many farm buildings that showed major damage. Roofs were torn completely off, smaller outbuildings torn asunder and debris was scattered everywhere. One officer reported to us that the damage in town was significant and that the church steeple of St. John’s Anglican Church had been torn off and thrown to the street. Matt, once again, commented on the destruction with a weather watchers eye, constantly, bringing in and explaining the science behind what he believed happened. “This definitely was a tornado, Dad, “he proclaimed, adding up the evidence and coming to a conclusion. Later that week Environment Canada confirmed that it was either a F2 or F3 tornado.

It was then and there that I realized that my teenaged son had taken the steps necessary to become a lay expert on weather science, and that he could be considered a legitimate storm chaser. I was relegated to being “the wheel man” and that was just fine with me.

Once again, the utter shock and awe we experienced in Norwich drove Matt forward into his desire to chase storms as they happened. It goes without saying that, once Matt became a fully licensed driver, he would go out on a chases regularly in our stubby GMC Safari Van – his first storm chase vehicle. Matt also had interested friends who’d tag along or provide the transportation. These were the trial and error years for Matt. This is where he learned to chase safety and how technology could assist him in the chase. Radar data could direct him to the hot spots thus taking his chases beyond the mere visual and the verbal to scientific, data based analysis.

NORWICH TORNADO AND THE NEWS: A FEW VISUALS

CTV news London, in their “Throwback Thursday” segment, recently posted a compilation of their reports which details the damage. When I watched this I am reminded that the scenes are very reminiscent of those we see of damage from the Tornado Belt in the US. http://london.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=628319

The Norwich Museum archives describe described the event this way, “Late in the afternoon on June 2, 1998, the Norwich Firefighters’ pagers pierced the thick muggy air as a thunderstorm approached the town. “”Attention Norwich Firefighters, this is Woodstock Fire Control, we have a report of a tornado touching down in Holbrook that is headed towards Norwich.” A feeling of disbelief soon turned to a feeling of fear as the F1-F2 force tornado tore through Norwich at tree-top level just one block north of the Fire Hall.”

Elain Oliver described her personal experience with this storm in the Norwich Gazette and it can be read here: http://www.norwichgazette.com/2010/07/14/tornado-june-2-1998

Written by: Jim Johnson

Storm Tracks – Blog 7: “The Thunderstorm Rescue – A Short Story”

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This is a bit of an aside but it does relate to our theme going forward. This incident occurred during a very severe thunderstorm in the summer. Matt was probably twelve years old, his sister three and his baby brother a mere newborn. The entire event dramatically illustrated how powerful a weather event can be. We might call this our fear factor event. It taught us all to respect the power of Mother Nature.

What happened was that our dog, Sammy, got caught up on some falling branches and debris which came as a result of the first storm that day. He was a beautiful golden Lab, an outdoor dog who was tied to a long lead in the yard. The problem was that Sam could not gain access to his comfy Dog-loo House because of the debris and branches tangled in his lead. The storm was picking up in its intensity and the kids were frantic. The lightning flashed and thunder was constant as the rain poured down in raging torrents. My daughter designated me as the rescuer and Matt as the door holder who would keep access to the house open when I made my mad dash.

I decided to turn this event into a short story. By changing the names and the involvement of the characters, I tried to capture the feelings we felt that day, our fear and our ultimate respect for the power of a storm. Hopefully, you will sense what we felt that day. I know Matt carries so much respect for nature’s power when he is chasing. He is extremely careful and stays at a safe distance from the most destructive action. This approach comes with the knowledge and experience he has attained.

Here is the story. I hope you enjoy it.

Storm Warning: A Short Story

David’s stomach churned as he watched the approaching darkness. Black clouds raced across the slate gray sky as swirling gusts of wind twisted the giant maple tree. Flickering lightning flashes illuminated the tops of the distant thunderheads. A gentle rain rattled the windowpane. He feared for the worse.

“Let’s get started on the dishes,” Nancy suggested. “Mom and dad will expect them to be done by the time they get home.”

“Not now, sis, I gotta see what’s happening.”

“David, you’re eleven years old! You know we’re safe inside the house.”

Safe!

The word exploded inside David’s head. He tried to block the memory but each horrid image flashed into his thoughts. He felt as if he was floating in a tub of water that was about to overflow into some dark oblivion. The taste of bile erupted in his mouth.

Swimming lessons at Lake Gibson . . . black threatening clouds rolling in . . . the sound of the instructor’s whistle blaring . . . get out of the water and buddy-up . . . running toward Nathan . . . a blinding flash of light . . .then the instructor blowing air into Nathan’s mouth . . .pushing down on his chest . . . the rain pounding down, drowning his tears.

No chance to say good-by!

David snapped his head to the right and glanced at the television. He stepped closer into the long adjacent hall that led to the living room. A printed message scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Each letter appeared seven feet tall from where David was standing.

“SEVERE WEATHER WARNING: POTENTIAL FOR DAMAGING WINDS, TORRENTIAL RAIN, LIGHTNING AND POSSIBLE HAIL.”

“Come on, David, we’ve got to get these dishes done!”

Back to reality, David thought, as he ambled back toward the kitchen and the task at hand. He watched his sister slip a greasy plate under the gushing hot water tap.

“Let me wash this time,” David suggested.

“They’re all yours, David!” Nancy smiled, as she stepped aside “I guess it’s about time I started taking care of these beautiful hands.”

Through the rain-streaked window above the sink David observed the progress of the storm. He could see that the approaching blackness appeared luminescent with hues of pink and green. These were danger signals. A sudden rumble of thunder rattled the dishes stacked beside the sink.

“Storm’s getting closer.”

David shuddered when he heard the concerned tone in Nancy’s voice. Why couldn’t he shake this uneasy feeling? He knew, of course, but he never could confront it.

“You can go down to the basement if you want,” Nancy added. Her expressive eyes reflected the knowing she shared with her brother.

“Don’t worry; I can handle this one, sis.” David blurted out the words. He knew that his quivering voice would never convince his fourteen-year-old sister.

It wasn’t long before heavy sheets of rain smashed against the window. The thunder banged and crashed continuously. David stared at the sharp forks of lightning shooting across the sky. His hands trembled as he put cups and saucers into the sink.

A sudden movement in the backyard caught David’s eye. His body stiffened.

“Nancy, something’s wrong!” he blurted.

David felt his sister’s hands tightly clasp his shoulders as she leaned over toward the window.

“Oh, no!” she gasped. “Sam’s tangled-up in his chain. He can’t get to his house.”

David saw that the dog’s frantic struggle merely tightened the chain, making things worse. He winced when he heard Sam’s mournful cry.

“Oh, no, what can we do?” Nancy screamed. The line of tears running down her cheek surprised David. Her body trembled.

“I’ve gotta go out there!” he shouted. The words fell out of him forceful and easy – which surprised him.

“David, you can’t!” Nancy begged. “It’s too dangerous!”

“Nancy, I’ve got no choice!”

David felt his sister’s hand gripping his wrist. With a quick twist of his forearm, David freed himself and rushed for the door.

He struggled against the force of the howling wind as he pushed the aluminum door open. The rain bit at his cheeks like pine needles that pricked. David swallowed hard as he tried to ease the sickening feeling in his throat.

“Nancy, hold on to the door and be ready to let me back in,” David huffed. He considered that these just might be his famous last words.

Taking a deep breath, David charged down the wooden steps. Instantly, the heavy rain soaked his ragged sweat shirt and jeans. He felt his long hair matted to his face and scalp. Drops of water dripped from his nose. Crouching low, he scurried across the spongy lawn.

A sudden flash of lightning turned the blackness to light, just for an instant. Like a statue, Sam stood at the foot of the swaying maple tree, frozen in place. The flickering scene reminded David of an ancient silent movie. He willed his legs to pump even faster.

Slipping and sliding, David tripped and fell headlong into a patch of slimy mud. The bitter taste of the earth made him gag. Quickly, he wiped the grime from his lips.

A explosive flash of light overwhelmed him. His eyes snapped shut.

A thunder crack, as deafening as a shotgun blast, was too close for comfort. Scrambling on hands and knees David crawled the last few feet to the struggling dog.

Reaching beneath Sam’s snout David felt the cold steel of the chain. The shivering dog licked excitedly at David’s face. His mud covered fingers fumbled with the clasp until, it snapped open. He unraveled the tangled chain like a frenetic Houdini. In an instant, Sam quickly scampered to the safety of his dog house and slipped inside.

David’s nose tingled as the hair on his neck danced. The air carried a scent not unlike laundry on the clothesline. The acrid air around him felt electrified. Fragments of leaves and twigs swirled in every direction.

David fixed his eyes on Nancy’s silhouette. The side door that she held ajar appeared to be miles away. Jumping to his feet, David exploded into a powerful sprint. His churning legs ached as he dashed toward the house. In one frantic leap he cleared the three wooden steps and tumbled inside the doorway.

In an instant, David felt the warmth of his own tears stroking the cool wetness of his face. His chest heaved as he gulped air into his burning lungs. He found comfort in the protection of his sister’s reassuring hug. They held on tight, knowing their beloved pet was safe. Their shared silence gave purpose to their relief.

“You’re a hero,” Nancy finally whispered.

David had no response to that. No, he just held on tighter because at that moment he felt as if he could easily melt like candle wax into a puddle on the floor.

Written by: Jim Johnson