Thursday, May 27, 2010

Weekend Tornado in Ft. Stockton Threatened Balmorhea

Sunday, 5/23/10; Balmorhea, West Texas

With weekend campers still enjoying the Lake late Sunday afternoon, the Bamorhea Fire Department was alerted to an approaching super cell that contained a tornado. The tornado had touched down in Fort Stockton and was reportedly heading west along I-10.

The last reported location of the tornado was at Hovey Road, nearly midway between Balmorhea and Fort Stockton. The Fire Department volunteers deployed at the crest of the road crossing the dam at Lake Balmorhea and waited.

When the storm hit Fort Stockton early Sunday afternoon, it caused a blackout in surrounding areas, including Balmorhea, that lasted until 10:00 AM Monday.

At the time of the electrical blackout, this editor, camera in hand, headed east on I-10 following a utility vehicle that I assumed was heading to the site of the disruption. As I neared the Hovey Road exit darkly ominous clouds came into view, accompanied by a rainbow.

I noticed in the rear-view that the utility truck, which I had passed by then, had pulled to the side of the road. This was an intuitive indicator that danger lay ahead, so I stopped as well. Winds were picking up and becoming fierce. I got out and began taking photos of what turned out to be the super cell that later caused alarm in Balmorhea among the emergency team. It had begun to rain.

As the dark super cell continued to approach it's clouds became more and more ominous looking.

I took a chance to slip by northward with the super cell on my right. When I got to Hovey Road, 18-wheelers were pulled over and banked against the protective hill at the top of the exit road as the storm passed on their right on the other side of the hill. Suddenly, a very heavy rain ensued and the storm began to shower us with pea-sized hail. At that, I thought I might be in danger so I headed back home, south on I-35 as soon as my intuition told me it was safe. My concern was that the super cell would cross over the hill.

When I exited the storm, all became calm again and the sun was shining in Balmorhea. I headed for the lake where I was sure that I could get a view toward Ft. Stockton from the top of the dam. I could only see the leading edge of the storm high up.

At the dam I stopped briefly to talk to the emergency crew who were keeping a close eye on the storm; then I headed out across the dam looking for an unobstructed view.

The clouds were not quite so ominous anymore and seemed to be heading northwesterly now. They would skirt north of Balmorhea, relieving us all. Before doing so, and as the sun went down, the cell begin to present itself, lit by the sun, in golden glory. Underneath the thunderhead, there appeared an angel formed in clouds that seemed to be holding the heavenly clouds on its shoulders, much in the manner that Juan Diego must have experienced in visions at Guadalupe.

You can click-on all of the photographs above for a larger view.

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