Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oklahoma Apocalypse!

This past week I had the opportunity to visit family and friends in the great state of Oklahoma. [Now I know some of my friends in Texas will take offense at the "great state" designation, but bear with me, there is a greater point at stake here!] I did a bit of archaeological exploration just north of Marland and south of Ponca City at the site of the Miller Brother's 101 Ranch headquarters site; visited the Marland Grand Home in Ponca City and even the Marland Mansion; I preached in my father and step-mom's church; saw uncles, aunts and cousins. Finally, I was able to visit the old homestead in Verden. A good visit all told, with one exception: hail.

For those of you who aren't acquainted with the phenomenon, it is frozen rain that has been tossed back and forth in the atmosphere and coated with more freezing water or clumped together with other hail stones until it attains a variety of sizes - from 'pea' size to 'shot put' size or even larger I assume. Hail is endemic to cumulonimbi - thunder storms. Hail is a common product of thunderstorms, especially in the Spring in the midwestern or Great Plains portion of the United States. It is here, in the spring time, that the heavy, warm, moisture-filled air from the Gulf of Mexico encounters cold fronts moving in from the north and west. When these two forces meet at the "dry line", thunderstorms form and the possibility of hail comes into existence! Having given you a brief lesson on hail, I want you to know that it is "severe weather" season in this part of the country and it can be terrifying.

Now back to my story.

It is Sunday, May 16. I've just finished preaching at my father's church in Oklahoma City and have proceeded to Edmond, just north of the city to visit relatives. On a lark, my cousin, Derek decides to take me back down to the city for a bit of 'exploration' and just some 'catch-up' time. On the highway, while on our way back to Edmond we run into the leading edge of a massive thunderstorm that had formed quickly on the northwestern edge of Oklahoma City. I took this picture as we headed into it, being simply amazed by its size and contrast:

Now as we drove into the storm - and by the way, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, necessarily - just another day in the springtime of Oklahoma! - I became very interested in white column coming out of the bottom of the dark cloud. I had never seen that before. But since we didn't see the 'green' color normally associated with the presence of hail, we didn't think about it. We decided we would just get tossed about in heavy rain and high winds. But then we saw the storm chaser on the over pass and decided we ought to turn on the radio. About that time, my cousin noticed the cloud was "greening" and that we were going to run into some hail. The radio announcer said to take cover, the storm had a huge hail column containing up to softball sized hail. (Now think about how big that is. I'd heard of softball size hail, but never seen it) So what I was looking at in the storm - the white cloud on the left - was the hail column.

Then we ran into it. We immediately took a direct hit to the windshield. It was as if someone had taken a sledge hammer to our windshield - it blew the rear view mirror off and cratered the upper middle of the windshield. I put my feet on the windshield as "shot put" size hail slammed into our vehicle. It was so loud you couldn't hear yourself think. Cars were slamming on their brakes as they hit the storm, some of them spinning out of control as they lost some or all of their windshield as they hit the wall of hail.

Immediately we sped up in order to get to the shelter of the next overpass. We kept taking hits though and we took another monster hit to the windshield by my right foot, which created another crater. Thank the Lord for safety glass! In about a minute (felt like 5 minutes!) We made it to the safety of the underpass. All of the lanes were packed with people. Some cars had even turned around and driven in backwards to get protection from the apocalyptic onslaught. For 10 minutes the storm continued.

Even under the protection of the underpass, the hail was coming in and continued to hit the vehicles, though the monster pieces were shattering as they hit the bridge or the road in front of us. I opened the door briefly to snap this pic of the hail under the bridge - most of these pieces are fist to baseball sized hail:

Compare the hail stones to the size of the car at the top of the picture and you will get a good idea of what was pelting us. Imagine that stuff coming down so hard and fast that it was like bullets raining from heaven! We sat under the overpass until we believed the hail core had passed (though we left a little early and had to stop under another overpass about 2 minutes later) and talked about the fact that we had never seen anything like it. Of course we discussed whether or not the apocalypse had begun or maybe that the 'global warming' was true and mother nature was getting revenge!

Eventually we were able to start heading out from under the safety of the bridge and the site that met us was just surreal - look at this last photo: It looks like snow on the highway - in May! I've never seen anything like this. Kudos to my cousin Derek for getting us to safety so quickly!

Now I know that many of you scientifically minded-readers understand the forces in nature that make these kinds of storms possible. The possibility of this type of storm hitting every so often are slim, but still possible. The right conditions can make all sorts of things happen in our world. But if nothing else, these events must make you think about ultimate realities. What do I mean by ultimate realities? I mean the questions of existence. Far too often human beings live their lives as if there is nothing greater than they are. We are masters of the universe and nothing can stop us. Nature reminds us that our reality isn't quite that self-assured. There is something greater than we are and we must respect it. We disrespect it at our own peril.

As I sat through this 'apocalyptic' event, I was reminded of the fact that I am only human and that my life is so very fragile. If we approach life in this fashion, every moment becomes a gift and every encounter a treasure. Not an hour before this occurred, a friend of mine had sent me a text message telling me how beautiful it was in Texas hill country that day. I found it ironic that 300 miles north, I was caught in what could only be described as 'judgement day' on the earth!

So today I can tell you that God has reminded me of the limited, fragile nature of my life. If I take care of my physical body and avoid too much danger, I might live on this earth between 60 and 90 years. But that isn't very long. Ultimately, God holds our lives in His hands. Each day a gift and each moment something that must be treasured and inhabited. Tell someone you love them today. Tell them how much they mean to you. Smile at someone you have not smiled at in a while and then take time to enjoy that moment. Smell a flower. Bite into a grape. Heed the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [Matthew 5:25-34 NASB95]

Bless you my friends this day!


  1. Truly an exciting and soulful sojourn through
    some of the storms of nature, and the storms
    of life; followed by some of Gods suggestions on how
    to navigate through the storms - given through
    The Word as disseminated through the bible.

    Thanks for your inspiration!

  2. Great experience, Jay. I've experienced the same in the Mountans of Oregon, but the hail was probably the size of small peanuts. A little different wouldn't you say? I can't imagine the feelings you were having! Isn't it great to just TRUST IN THE LORD during those times! Love the report.