The following is a first-person account from a member of The Dallas Express staff retelling their experience during the tornadoes that struck North Texas last week.
Waking up on December 13, it seemed like a normal morning.
The skies were cloudy. The air was somewhat still, and other owners were out taking in the grounds of my apartment complex, walking their dogs, or heading to work.
I was going through my normal morning routine despite feeling ill. Wake up at 7. Freshen up for the day. Walk and feed the dog. And finally, get ready for work. I was out walking my dog at around 8 that morning. I had already known that severe storms were expected in my region and that a tornado watch was in effect, but in my hubris, I believed that nothing bad would happen or that at least if something did, it would be far from me.
I thought wrong on both accounts.
A bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder, both happening in an instant, shook me out of my hubris; the latter was hardly dampened by my headphones. I looked around me and noticed the skies beginning to darken.
Seconds after the crack of thunder, I heard the wail of a siren near me. I scooped up my small dog and ran toward my apartment. As I got inside, I set my dog down in her bed and stepped onto the patio. Rain began to fall faster and heavier. I stepped back inside and received a call from my editor asking me to cover the weather as it develops across the metroplex.
Several severe thunderstorm warnings were effects across the area, including in my own. I sat down on my couch and began to research and write about the storms in the area. I watched on the radar as the storm moved across Texas.
About 30 minutes after I sat down, I noticed that the lights in my house began to flicker. I thought nothing of it. The sirens had already died down and power fluctuations during a storm were not uncommon.
Minutes later, I heard the sirens start up again and I felt the familiar buzz of an emergency alert on my phone. My heart skipped a beat as I read the alert that a tornado warning had been issued in my area and that residents were advised to take cover.
All I heard was the wind buffeting the rain at the time. Fear told me to go ahead and take cover, however, my own curiosity was stronger than my fear at that moment. I set my dog in the bathtub, placed a blanket over her, and stepped out my front door.
The wind and the rain were near blinding as I peered across the apartment complex to get a better view. I looked around for any sign of a tornado. I looked first in the direction of Grapevine Mills mall, which was less than a mile from me, then toward the highway. I had figured that if there is a tornado on the ground, it is probably rain-wrapped or far away.
As I peered further into the rain, I turned to face the direction of what I can only describe as the sound of a train. I then spotted a whirling translucent mass reaching into the sky in the distance, I did not stare long as fear finally took over and I turned back inside my apartment. I grabbed my computer and tablet and joined my dog in the bathtub, crouching and placing a large queen-sized blanket over us.
I then got back into the mindset of a journalist and began searching for more information on the storm, where it was moving, what areas were under effect, and so on. Moments later, the lights went out and the internet shut off. The entire bathroom was nearly pitch black. I closed my computer and pulled my dog close to me as I heard a roar outside.
I did not know if it was the rain or the tornado that I had witnessed outside, but whatever it was, I could hear it getting stronger. I remembered all of the tornado videos I watched out of fascination from my childhood into adulthood and realized that I was now living one such tale. I crouched in the bathroom with my dog for a time that I cannot remember, but it seemed that as soon as it began the nightmare stopped.
The lights switched back on and the internet with it. The roaring outside had faded and ceased. Even then, I did not dare step back outside. As the internet came back to life, I finished my story and stepped out of the bathroom to inspect my surroundings.
My living room was the same as I left it. The sky was cloudy through the windows, but far less dark than it had been. I then pulled myself together as best I could and started to continue my day. I called my relatives and girlfriend to make sure they were OK, finding relief in knowing they were out of harm’s way. I took my dog out of the bathtub and set her down. She kept right next to me from there on out.
I continued that day working from home and watched as reports of tornados came in across the region. Pictures. Videos. Tweets. One picture that was taken shook me to my core. It was a photo of a damaged Burlington storefront. One that I knew all too well because it was the same store less than a mile from where I lived. More images of damages around my city came in. The last thing I decided to look at was a supposed video capturing an alleged twister.
I was greeted with an image of the same translucent whirling mass I had peered at through the rain crossing a highway I travel on all too often.
Research and videos of tornados informed my fascination with this force of nature. Realizing that one came the closest it ever has in my life taught me to respect it.