Lucky Star: Jupiter In The Signs

“Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight…
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have this wish I wish tonight.” ~ late nineteenth century nursery rhyme

You’ve probably heard that little ditty since you were knee high to a grasshopper. I’ll even go one further and venture a guess that more than likely, you’ve also wished it, upon seeing the first star appear in the night sky. (So have I.)

What you may or may not realize is that you weren’t wishing on a star at all. You were, in all likelihood, wishing on Venus. Furthermore, Venus isn’t even considered astrologically lucky. That distinction, dear follower, belongs to…wait for it…Jupiter.

Jupiter

Named for the Roman God Jupiter, it is an inhospitable gas giant, fifth planet from our Sun. With a mass of two and a half times all the other planets in our solar system combined, with a composition of mostly hydrogen and one-quarter helium, Jupiter is not only the largest planet in our solar system (to say the least) and the third brightest object in the night sky (after the Moon and Venus), but also, due to its sheer enormity and composition, some scientists believe it might even be a failed second Sun.

The Roman God Jupiter

The Roman God Jupiter

I don’t know about you, but none of that seems very “lucky” to me…

Nonetheless, in the astrological world, Jupiter is known as the planet of luck and things that come with great ease or favorable situations that seem to fall into your proverbial lap. It also governs long-distance travel. It rules the Sun sign of Sagittarius, a sign traditionally known for being, well, lucky. Someone with the good fortune of having Jupiter at “home” in Sagittarius in their chart would tend to notice an enhanced trend toward lucky breaks and finding themselves in the right place at the right time. Building on that premise, if they had Jupiter (planet of luck) in Sagittarius in the Second House of their natal chart (which represents money, possessions, and creature comforts), you just might see them being heralded as the latest Powerball Jackpot winner on the evening news…and wait a minute, what’s this? Not just the Powerball Jackpot winner, but the winner of the largest Powerball Jackpot in the history of the world! Furthermore, our uber-fortuitous Jupiter-Second-House-Sadge probably found the winning ticket on the floor of the bank where he was depositing his million-dollar inheritance check or something. (I know, I know. I hate him too.)

Make no mistake about it, Jupiter has its negative aspects as well: it can encourage laziness, weight gain, and lack of motivation.

To nutshell it, Jupiter makes “big” whatever it touches. Whatever the qualities of the sign Jupiter finds itself in, will be amplified on a grand scale.

So, I ask you: do you feel lucky? Well, do ya? (Yeah, cheesy, but come on, you knew that was coming!) Let’s see what your Jupiter placement means for you. If you don’t know where your Jupiter is, you can find out here.

JUPITER IN ARIES
Let’s take a look at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Both do things in a big way. Huge families. Lotsa kids. Blockbuster movies.  Both are fancydinJupiter-Ariens. The sign of Aries already thrives on outdoing everyone else in every way; it really doesn’t need any help from Jupiter (I can say this because I am an Aries.) But ohhhh, when Jupiter’s expansiveness and luck combines with the Arien drive, impulsiveness, impatience, and generosity, you have the makings for someone who just can’t seem to put the brakes on anything, whether it’s taking on lots of extra responsibilities, work projects, lending money, you name it. If they take you out to dinner, don’t argue if your Jupiter-Ram dining companion tries to snatch the check away from you: just let go, sit back, smile, and shut up. Your money is no good here. Jupiter-Aries truly wants to pay your way — it’s an ego issue; they need to pay — and pay your way they will…at the finest restaurant in town, spare no expense, lest a Jupiter-Arien be outdone by someone else (perish the thought.) But the wait staff better make it snappy; Jupiter-Arien is also impatient on a grand scale, and when made to wait longer than they feel is necessary (the horror), they can throw a grand scale-sized tantrum.

JUPITER IN TAURUS
Taurus is the sign of comfort, home, and security. A Taurus is family-oriented, stable, and typically has one hell of a green thumb. Look inmoneyhoard the backyard of a Bull and take in vast array of blooms and herbs and a well-tended vegetable garden you wish you had. Now look in the backyard of a Jupiter-Taurean. It’s like the difference between sepia-toned Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz emerging through the door to Technicolor. The same virtual Garden of Eden you saw in the Bull’s backyard, but on a much grander scale. Taureans are geniuses when it comes to saving (*cough* hoarding *cough*) money as well as investing, so their bank accounts are sure to be quite comfortable, which Jupiter-Taurus appreciates. One caveat here is that Jupiter-Taurus is prone to overindulgence (in food, drink, spending, in pretty much everything) so they need to be mindful of this in order to keep their good fortune.

JUPITER IN GEMINI
sanfordsonThe airy sign of Gemini is a witty, free-spirited communicator. When we combine these traits with Jupiter’s “in a big way” lucky influence, we find someone who will probably find luck comes to them via communication in one form or another (speaking, writing, lecturing, teaching), and to do so in a way that instantly wins others over, making people comfortable. Energetic Gemini is a multitasking wizard; Jupiter’s influence will likely find a Twin enthusiastically saying “yes!” to every task asked of them, only to find themselves quickly becoming bored with one and jumping from project to project as each one fails to hold Jupiter-Gemini’s interest long enough to see any of them come to fruition. Take a gander around the house of a Jupiter-Twin. I’ll bet you my right arm you are going to see piles of projects that are still in the infancy stages (be it artsy things, or anything really: scrapbooking needing done, piles of papers about lord-knows-what collecting dust while waiting for flighty Jupiter-Gemini to organize it. Now go take a look outside; double or nothing says the yard could pass for Sanford & Son. (Incidentally, Jupiter-Librans are often similar to Jupiter-Geminians in this aspect.) See, the thing is, an airy, happy-go-lucky Jupiter-Gemini would rather spend its time communicating and engaging: talking, emailing, texting, visiting friends or family…for to be corralled inside a home with a metric frack ton of organizing needing to be done is entirely too overwhelming…the procrastination continues, and round and round we go. At least Jupiter-Gemini is having fun! They might consider hiring a Jupiter-Virgo for help in getting those piles of “to-do” projects in order once and for all…hyperorganized Jupiter-Virgo would love nothing more! It’s a win-win.

JUPITER IN CANCER
Cancer is an incredibly intuitive sign (as are the other two water signs, Scorpio & Pisces) and Jupiter’s influence only amplifies an already

Michelle Duggar is the poster child for Jupiter-Cancerians: 19 kids & a sprawling home!

Michelle Duggar is the poster child for Jupiter-Cancerians: 19 kids & a sprawling home!

uncanny ability. If a Jupiter-Cancerian can learn to trust their intuition to guide them, luck can come to them in droves. I’m not exaggerating. Too many of us try to rationalize our gut feelings, talking ourselves out of them. This is a mistake! We should all learn to heed our so-called sixth sense, particulary Jupiter-Cancerians. Good fortune will come to a Jupiter-Crab via their intuition if they can just learn to trust it. Additionally, the sign of Cancer is extremely home & family-oriented and highly sensitive, and they will likely find luck in any undertaking involving food (chef, catering) or nurturing (child care, nursing, hospice worker). Cancers are…how you say…thrifty? (okay, cheap!) and Jupiter’s influence here will allow a Crab all the more ability to accumulate a nice little nest egg, as financial security is verrrry important to this one. Yes, I know, it’s important to most people…but it’s re-he-heally important to a Crab. My eldest son is a Jupiter-Crab and let’s just say the shoe is a perfect fit. Tangible signs of a Jupiter-Cancerian might include a big, showy home and/or lots of kids (Cancer is the sign of hearth & home as well as family.) On that note, guess who is a Jupiter-Cancerian? That’s right: Michelle “19 Kids and Counting” Duggar (born 09/13/1966; check her birthdate for yourself here and then go here for her Jupiter sign. Now tell me astrology is “hokum,” Sheldon Cooper!) Her husband of 29 years, Jim Bob Duggar, is a Jupiter-Gemini…though his Sun is in Cancer.

JUPITER IN LEO
The Lion is already pretty much the showiest, most self-absorbed Sun sign we’ve got. When we add Jupiter’s own “do it up big” influence, watch out. Now we’ve got an individual who will not settle for less than being the star of the show, but one who won’t settle for less than being the biggest star in history of the biggest show in history: ladies and gentlemen, give it up for…JUPITER-LEO! Jupiter-Lions love to play and they do so on the grandest scale ever. They will throw ginormous holiday bashes, birthday parties, baby showers, backyard barbecues, mitzvahs, memorial services, weddings, and graduation parties that will blow. your. mind. Everything is over-the-top with this one. However, they are incredibly generous creatures (with affection as well as money) and they’ll shower you with both. This one talks a big game (read: exaggerates a great deal) but they are bursting with charisma and their outgoing natures seemingly effortlessly attract success and good fortune. Their presence can seem larger than life and at times it can even be overwhelming just to be in the same room with them, but they truly do have hearts of gold and people are drawn to their vivacity. Celebrities with Jupiter in Leo include Pink, Mick Jagger, Bill Gates, Bette Davis, Layne Staley, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robert DeNiro.

JUPITER IN VIRGO
Ah, the Virgo. Prudent, cautious, critical, cynical, and so meticulous it frequently borders on OCD. And it’s these very qualities that will likely bring Jupiter-Virgo the most luck in life, which they prefer to be as routine and simple as possible. I once had a neighbor with this Jupiter placement. He got off work every day at 5:30pm. And every day at 5:37pm, his white truck could be seen through my living room window, pulling into his parking space. You could set your watch by it. Likewise, every morning at 7:20am on the dot, while getting ready for work, I would hear his truck start up. I didn’t even need to look at a clock to know I had ten minutes to finish up and leave for work myself. But, I digress… The Virgin is an extremely hardworking, dependable creature and a Jupiter-Virgo is someone you definitely want in your corner when the stakes are high. They are sticklers for petty details and they will ponder every possible way out of any undesirable circumstance you can imagine. Their attention to the most minute details can work wonderfully in their favor or backfire tremendously, depending on the situation. My daughter has this Jupiter placement and it fits her to a tee. Furthermore, my creature of habit, simple life-loving Cancer-cusp other half is also Jupiter-Virgo and as much as he abhors the thought of  being “predictable,” let me just say now, I’m sorry, baby…but you and I both know you are.  And while it’s true they are highly critical, they are actually the most critical of themselves…but no worries, they’re almost as critical of you and they’re never shy about pointing out how you “shoulda” done this differently or you “coulda” done that better (both of which are the Jupiter-Virgo way, no doubt) and if you had, things “woulda” been more favorable. Hard as it might be to swallow (believe me, I know: I was born to a Jupiter-Virgo father), this really is their (albeit maddening) way of showing you they care about you. Yes, by reminding you on a regular basis what bad choices you’ve made and basically what a stellar fuck-up mess you’ve made of your life, that translates to “I love you” in Jupiter-Virgo. Yay. Can you imagine the things that would spew forth from their mouths if they hated you?

JUPITER IN LIBRA
Librans abhor injustice, confrontation, and all things unfair. When Jupiter has this placement, the individual will tend to find success in endeavors dealing with such things. Jupiter-Libra makes an incredibly fair, impartial judge or referee. The downside here, however, is that decision-making is absolute torture for Jupiter-Libra, and that process is even more excruciating for the rest of us to be forced to bear witness to. They hesitate…and vacillate…and hesitate some more. Then, when we all breathe a collective sigh of relief that they have finally come to a verdict — perhaps as to whether or not to choose paper or plastic in the checkout line — they second-guess themselves and they start trying to re-decide. Remember the 1987 movie “Planes Trains & Automobiles” with Steve Martin and John Candy? In the opening scene, Steve Martin’s character is sitting in a conference room impatiently waiting for a stuffy business associate who is agonizing over a marketing decision. That guy has Jupiter-Libra written all over him. But the positive thing about the Jupiter-Libra way of coming to a decision is that once they finally do get there (and they will, eventually) it’s almost always the right one.

JUPITER IN SCORPIO
Wow. Just…wow. If Jupiter’s influence is to expand and amplify everything it touches, and Scorpio is a highly intense, passionate, sexual sign…well, you can let your imagination take over from there. Sorry guys, this doesn’t imply that if you are a Jupiter-Scorpion that you’re hung like a horse (my apologies to you as well, ladies.) I’m talking about non-physical traits. But what it does indicate is that an individual with this Jupiter placement will very likely have a libido the likes of which you might have never before encountered. Unfortunately, Jupiter-Scorpio could also have a jealous streak the likes of which you might have never before encountered. In any event, Scorpio in general has a lot of creativity and Jupiter’s influence here indicates the native can find ample success in creative endeavors: interior decorating, the entertainment industry, writing, sculpting, architecture…the possibilities are limitless. For example, some famous (and infamous) Jupiter-Scorpions include Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Manson, Stephen King, Ted Bundy, Britney Spears, and River Phoenix. Now, if those aren’t intense, creative personalities, I don’t know who are.

JUPITER IN SAGITTARIUS
As I mentioned earlier in this post, Jupiter rules the don’t-fence-me-in sign of Sagittarius and because it’s at home here, their influences on one another are twofold. While Jupiter-Sadge can come across as a rather annoying know-it-all, they seem to attract good fortune through their outgoing personalities which makes it easy for them to become instant friends with nearly anyone they meet. Jupiter-Sadge is also big on travel, the further the distance and the greater the degree of spontanaeity, the better! Archers also have a tendency to blurt out the first thing on their mind, rarely stopping to think first whether it might be too brusque or cause some hurt feelings, though malice is rarely their intent.  My almost-six year-old Libra grandson is a Jupiter-Sadge and oh lord, this description fits him like an adorable little glove. Between their far and wide wanderlust adventures, always ready to jump into new experiences with both feet, and a knack for getting along with just about anyone, good fortune seems to fall into the Archer’s lap faster than you can say “let’s go for it!” Some celebrities with this Jupiter placement include Mila Kunis, Cameron Diaz, Prince Charles of Wales, Hillary Clinton, and of course, the blunt, feeling-hurtin’, arrogant son of a bitch we love to hate: Simon Cowell.

JUPITER IN CAPRICORN
Don’t let this one fool you. Jupiter-Capricorns often have a serious look on their face, a furrowed brow that makes you wonder just what in fuckville they are thinking so intently about. But the thing is, that’s just how they appear. These folks have naturally serious, sometimes even annoyed facial expressions. What you might not realize is that under that stoic surface, these are some of the funniest people you will ever meet (if their scary-sour expression doesn’t make you turn and walk the other way first!) They have very witty, very dry, and frequently very dark senses of humor and, better than nearly any other Jupiter placement, know how to make the best of a not-so-hot situation. They’re the one who will say things for shock value; they’ll crack a joke during a sensitive or otherwise serious situation in which no one else would dare…but those other folks will be glad for the fleeting comic relief, as it puts others at ease. (Besides, Jupiter-Cappy is only saying what everyone else was already thinking!) I happen to have this Jupiter placement and I can’t even begin to count the number of people over the years who have determined immediately upon seeing me (not meeting me, mind you – seeing me) that I’m a hateful, antisocial snob (thank you, Natural Facial Expression) and subsequently concluded, on the basis of that “information” alone, they did not like me. Books by covers… Anyway, moving on. Jupiter-Goats often find success through making lasting, good first impressions. The Goat has a formidable work ethic and is known for thinking outside the proverbial box, coming up with solid ideas. They are quite an organized people and along with Jupiter-Virgo, some of the hardest workers you will ever meet. They are incredibly resourceful and always seem to come up with ways to increase their bank balances. With Jupiter-Cappy, financial success is frequently a side-effect of diligent work and putting new moneymaking ideas in motion. Eminem, Charlie Chaplin, Katy Perry, Carmen Electra, and my youngest son are all Jupiter-Cappies (and yeah, the above description is pretty much a spot-on assessment of my say-anything-for-shock-value son.) Incidentally, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein were both Jupiter-Goats (and aside from the obvious fact that they were both pure evil incarnate, they were pretty shocking, dark individuals…to say the least.)

JUPITER IN AQUARIUS
If Jupiter-Capricorn is skilled at thinking outside the proverbial box, then a Jupiter-Aquarian invented the box and mastered the fine art of thinking outside of it.  Though Jupiter-Water Bearers shudder at the thought of shouldering loads of serious responsibilities (they’ll still do it, they just don’t want to, and they will probably procrastinate as long as possible beforehand), they are full of some of the most offbeat, eccentric ideas you will ever be exposed to. However, they really don’t want to roll up their sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty nuances or excruciating minutae of putting any of those fascinating brainstorms in motion (maybe they, too, should hire a Jupiter-Virgo to help out with that, who lives for mundane details.)  Jupiter-Water Bearers will rattle off one inventive, amazing idea after another all day long, but if it will ever be seen through to fruition, you can bet Jupiter-Aquarius won’t usually be the one doing the sweaty work to make it a reality. Jupiter-Aquarians love going in directions before which no one else dared to tread; to discover new ways of doing things, to learn as much as possible. Many Jupiter-Water Bearers find success in unorthodox fields such as controversial branches of medicine or science, cult leaders (you heard me), and inventors. Jupiter-Aquarius is a humanitarian like no other who wants to make the world a better place. They are somewhat lacking in self-discipline however, and they usually don’t accumulate much wealth over their lifetimes because they believe money was made to be spent and enjoyed, not hoarded…and this is the least materialistic Jupiter placement in the zodiac. Water Bearers treasure friendships like none other. They are incredibly popular without even trying to be, as their unconventional personalities and quick wit draws people to them like moths to a flame. I’ll bet you’re dying to know the names of some notable Jupiter-Aquarians. Well, no need to die; I’ll tell you: Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Jim Carrey, Axl Rose, Hugh Hefner, and Britney Spears.

JUPITER IN PISCES
Few things warm the Piscean heart more than being of service to others. This empathetic, highly sensitive Fish is arguably among the most compassionate, tender-hearted folks in all the Land of the Zodiac, always standing at the ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Jupiter’s influence on Pisces is to amplify and expand upon those admirable qualities, and a Jupiter-Fish has much luck in career areas such as counseling, social work, the ministry, or even through volunteer work, particularly with organizations that benefit the hungry and/or the homeless, abused children, or animal shelters, for water signs have quite a soft spot for any animal or human in need. Stray animals need stray no further than Chez Jupiter-Pisces’ front door, for this is an individual who can’t say no to a creature in need of food and shelter, which the sensitive, empathetic Fish will cheerfully provide. A Jupiter-Fish is also one of the more psychic Jupiter placements, though like Jupiter-Cancer, they don’t always have enough confidence in their instincts to really let their abilities work in their favor. The negative aspects of Jupiter’s influence on Pisces, however, gives a marked tendency toward escapism. Pisceans wear rose-colored glasses, only seeing what they want to see, and Jupiter-Pisceans wear those really big, oversized novelty rose-colored glasses. Sometimes a Jupiter-Fish spends a bit too much time in their own version of reality and not infrequently, the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred (hopefully those rose-colored glasses are sporting prescription lenses…) Folks with this watery Jupiter placement have a much greater likelihood of their escapism consisting of alcohol or drug abuse as well, even more so than just the plain ol’ Pisces Sun. But when a person has a Pisces Sun in addition to Jupiter in Pisces, that particular likelihood all but becomes a virtual certainty. This one is also especially prone toward depressive tendencies. That said, Pisces is an artist, poet, and dreamer…and Jupiter’s expansive influence allows Jupiter-Pisces to dream big. There’s nothing wrong with that! Vincent Van Gogh, Sigmund Freud, Frank Sinatra, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Allen Poe, and “Mommie Dearest” herself: Joan Crawford.

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Where The Wicked Winds Blow: The El Reno Tornado

The Aries is a peculiar animal. I should know; I am one. Challenge-seeking and adrenaline rush-loving, we Rams enjoy few things more than, when told something isn’t possible or that some goal is unattainable, setting out with enormous energy to prove you wrong. The quickest way to spur me into action is to tell me I can’t do something. Oh yeah? Hide ‘n watch while I forge ahead with unrelenting determination to make you eat those words. Speaking as an Aries female, I feel an overwhelming drive to be numero uno at anything and everything I undertake. Well-versed in the art of one-upsmanship, an Arien never settles for being second best…at anything or to anyone.

Ram that I am, I find adrenaline rushes and extreme adventure quite seductive. One way I discovered, years ago, that I could indulge my craving for both was through storm chasing.

Birth of a Tornadic Supercell, near El Reno, OK, May 31, 2013

Birth of a Tornadic Supercell, near El Reno, OK, May 31, 2013

I was born and raised in the very heart of Tornado Alley: Oklahoma City. I lived in the Oklahoma City area until 2003 when I relocated 160 miles north to a suburb of Wichita, Kansas. Both areas are no stranger to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes; they are simply a fact of life in these parts. As a small child, I was terrified of storms. Some of my earliest memories involve a hypervigilant, overreactive Taurus mother whisking me out of bed as a violent thunderstorm raged outside, driving us in a panic to my grandmother’s house a few miles away to seek shelter in her basement. More or less, I learned by example to be afraid of storms. But as I grew older, I gradually became a little less frightened and a little more fascinated by nature’s fury. Somehow, I came to the realization at a relatively young age that things were much less scary when the bright light of knowledge and understanding was shone upon them. By educating myself on the science of thunderstorms and tornadoes, I was illuminating my fear with a virtual spotlight. No longer was I afraid; on the contrary, I quickly grew to love extreme weather and thunderstorms, and I was genuinely interested in and intrigued by what makes tornadoes tick.

imagesCAG70KTT

Reed Timmer

The notion of storm chasing first came to my attention on May 3, 1999 when an F-5 tornado tore through an area on the southern outskirts of Oklahoma City, leaving 44 people dead and billions of dollars in damage in its aftermath. Mouth agape, I watched the live coverage in both awe and horror as this beast roared closer and closer. In my 27 years of living in a city that regularly sees tornadoes each spring, I had never before seen a tornado of that magnitude anywhere near me. Sitting in my living room with my three offspring and my then-hubby, a Cancer who hailed from the northern West Virginia panhandle and was completely unaccustomed to experiencing storms that could kill a person if they weren’t below ground, we watched on live TV as the mile-wide monster barreled in our general direction. I marveled at the storm chasers (including a 19 year-old OU meteorology student by the name of Reed “BACKUP!!!!!” Timmer) as they streamed live coverage from out in the field, and I became acutely aware that they were probably safer than my family and I were, parked at home, practically waiting to be taken out by this killer tornado. Horrified, yet mesmerized as I watched it churn along, destroying everything in its path, I decided I would love nothing more than to be out in the field with those guys.

Beginning in the spring of 2001, I started dabbling in what might be considered amateur quasi-storm chasing. Bear in mind, if you will, at that time I lived in Oklahoma City so my “chases” usually consisted of local severe thunderstorms, of which we never lack. Having no mobile radar and nothing whatsoever to go on visually, I was flying blind –almost– as I drove in the storm’s general direction with my only guidance being in the form of a radio simulcast of a local TV meteorologist giving a play by play of Doppler radar-indicated rotation along with spotter information. In the years that followed, I managed to capture hundreds of photographs of beautiful storm structures and massive supercells, with the occasional funnel cloud. However, I’ve always stopped short of officially labeling myself a “storm chaser,” as Real Life often prevents me from chasing anything. After all, Ma Nature doesn’t really care if you have to work or don’t have the extra gas money to chase on the day she decides to drop a tornado. I would, and still do, consider myself more of a severe weather enthusiast and, because of not always being in a position to actively chase, be it due to lack of funds, the target area being too far away, work or other schedule/timing conflict, the chasing I do manage to get under my belt would still qualify as amateur, although I’ve been at it for 12 years, have access to mobile radar via my laptop, and am moderately knowledgeable in the science itself.

During the afternoon and evening of Thursday, May 30, 2013 I embarked on an impromptu chase when a dear Aquarian chaser friend and his Aries girlfriend shot me a text saying they would be coming down from Kansas thru Oklahoma City within a few hours to hopefully position themselves further south in order to intercept a tornado. A typical spring day in Oklahoma, we had already seen quite a few supercells go on to spawn tornadoes that afternoon and my Water Bearer buddy was hell-bent on bagging a tornado. He invited me to join them in their quest, which I excitedly did. While not a complete bust, we didn’t intercept anything significant, although we did manage to catch a few short-lived tornadoes and capture some jaw-dropping video and storm images.

Supercell w/rotating wall cloud W of Turner Falls, Davis, OK 05/30/2013

Supercell w/rotating wall cloud W of Turner Falls, Davis, OK 05/30/2013

As the evening began winding down, we headed back north toward Oklahoma City, discussing what the next day might bring in terms of severe weather. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) was forecasting a pretty significant risk for severe weather which could possibly culminate in large, violent, long-track tornadoes. It appeared all hell was going to break loose very near my home in Yukon, a western suburb of Oklahoma City. After running it by my Cancer-cusp better half, who anxiously awaited me at home, we invited my friends to spend the night at our house; that way, instead of driving another three and a half hours back up to their home in southwestern Kansas, and then back again the following day another three and a half hours to chase, they could get some well-needed rest and wake up in the target area. They gratefully accepted.

Friday, May 31, 2013, 12:30pm: we must have been more exhausted than we realized to wake up at lunchtime! Over a late breakfast, we studied the latest projections from the SPC convective outlooks, and we easily chose our initial target area: El Reno, Oklahoma, just 10 miles west of Yukon. CAPE (convective available potential energy) values were predicted to reach over 5,000 (meaning an extremely unstable atmosphere) and while we didn’t know exactly how things were going to go down, we knew they were going to go down…and whatever went down would be huge. Scores of storm chasers from all over the country and every genre — amateurs, thrill-seekers, researchers, news crews — had descended upon this same target area. At 3:30pm, a PDS (particularly dangerous situation) tornado watch was issued by the SPC, indicating that any tornadoes that developed could be long-track, destructive ones. PDS tornado watches aren’t issued very often so when they are, it’s imperative to pay close attention to the weather.

We arrived in El Reno early in the 4:00 hour, stopping at Braum’s to grab some ice cream while we kept a constant watch on both radar and the deceptively calm, gorgeous azure sky. Within less than half an hour, we watched as evidence of storm initiation began and breathtaking cumulonimbi rapidly climbed higher and higher into the atmosphere, like the lid being removed from a pot of boiling water; the clouds themselves seemed to be boiling as they ascended explosively. When the action began to be detectable on radar, my Aquarian amigo announced, “Time to move.” We had three rapidly developing supercells to choose from and our fearless Water Bearing leader ultimately made the decision to pursue one to our WSW. The adrenaline level in the car was skyrocketing in tandem with the storm development as we raced in anticipation toward the southwest to get front-row seats to what, quite possibly, could become a significant, perhaps even historic and (heaven forbid) deadly severe weather event.

We couldn’t have been more right.

timsamarasStorms now initiating south of Watonga along triple point. Dangerous day ahead for OK–stay weather savvy!”  ~ Tim Samaras, in his final post on Twitter, shortly before his death, 05/31/2013

Within a half hour, after some tricky navigation thru blinding rain, fierce winds, and baseball-size hail, we caught up to the monster on a rural, gravel county road, and watched incredulously as we witnessed the birth of a killer, not more than one hundred yards away in an adjacent field to our southeast. Three separate vortices danced around one another in a deadly waltz, intertwining gracefully before ultimately coming together to form a single, massive, dark gray wedge, swirling dirt up, into, and around the vortex. It was eerily quiet, with the exception of the sound of a distant, whistling wind which was so soft, it almost seemed as if it could’ve been harmless. As the tornado slowly churned further east and then northeast thru the countryside, we followed closely behind, documenting its progression with our video cameras, stopping our pursuit when we began encountering unfortunate homes which had been left heavily damaged or destroyed in the twister’s wake.

While his girlfriend and I filmed the extensive destruction, my Water Bearer buddy frantically raced up driveways, almost as if playing hopscotch as he jumped to avoid downed power lines and debris, made his way through enormous piles of rubble which families once called home, climbing over piles of bricks, around walls that no longer stood, tossing furniture aside, calling out, trying desperately to find anyone who might be trapped beneath the remains. Fortunately, there was only one home where he did find someone: a mother and daughter who had ridden out the storm in an underground shelter and were very much alive and uninjured. While searching the debris of another home about a half mile away, the elderly homeowner arrived on the scene via a sheriff’s deputy. He assured us there had been no one at home when the tornado leveled his house, and he expressed his gratitude that we had stopped and searched. I asked him if it was his house.

Heavy damage in the front yard of the first house we searched minutes after the tornado hit

Heavy damage in the front yard of the first house we searched minutes after the tornado hit

“Yeah, it’s…well, it used to be my house,” the silver-haired gentleman chuckled as he stood at the foot of the driveway, taking in the devastation. “But that’s okay. We’re alive.”

I wonder if he was an Aries. We Rams are known for our unrelenting optimism…

A mother & daughter were found safe in their home's storm shelter, S of El Reno, OK, 05/31/2013. Shortly after this picture was taken, the south side of the home began to collapse; however, no one was injured.

A mother & daughter were found safe in their home’s storm shelter, S of El Reno, OK, 05/31/2013. Shortly after this picture was taken, the south side of the home began to collapse; however, no one was injured.

The tornado continued to plow toward the northeast as we went house to house searching for potential victims. Over the car’s radio, I heard a local meteorologist urgently announce that the next projected target on the tornado’s radar was none other than my own city of Yukon. A tornado emergency was declared, as it had left major damage in its wake and was estimated to be around a mile wide as it bore down on a densely populated area. If this beast continued on its current path, it was possible, if not probable, that a large portion of the city would be wiped away…taking my home with it.

Fortunately, the tornado dissipated before that could happen, leaving Yukon –along with my own home– virtually untouched, save for a few tree limbs in the streets and sporadic power outages as a result of high winds.

By the time the tornado dissipated into the clouds as if it had never existed at all, it had enjoyed a life span of 40 minutes, produced winds of a nearly-unprecedented 296 mph across what has since been estimated to be a damage path 2.6 miles wide and 16.2 miles long, claiming at least twenty lives  (as of the date & time of this publication) including those of seven infants or children, and three veteran storm chasers who were not daredevils or thrill-seekers but seasoned meteorologists; scientists whose mission that fateful day was to place probes into the tornado’s path in order to glean data which would serve –and has previously served– to help unravel the mystery behind tornadoes, ultimately increasing warning times and saving countless lives.

Remembering Team TWISTEX: Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, Carl Young, 05/31/2013, El Reno, Oklahoma

Remembering Team TWISTEX: Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, Carl Young, 05/31/2013, El Reno, Oklahoma

Mother Nature’s cryptic message on May 31st was, that at the end of the day, she is the one who is in charge. The mere fact that the tornado’s unpredictable movement was able to surprise three extensively experienced storm chasers/scientists only underscores the desperate need for the very research they were attempting to do that day, and to remind us just how much we still don’t know about severe weather and meteorology in general.

The tragic fate met by those three men could have just as easily been met by any one of us who were chasing that tornado. This realization is quite humbling to say the least, and certainly gives me pause.

So will I continue to chase? Absolutely. Storms are one of my greatest passions. Although my Aquarius – Aries chase buddies, nor I, are scientists by any stretch of the imagination, we still make a difference, whether it’s by calling in storm reports to the NWS or being in a right place/right time situation that allows us, in many instances almost immediately after a tornado has struck, to search damaged structures for possible victims in need of help.

Besides, lest you forget, I am an Aries, after all. Go ahead. Just try and stop me.