THE TORNADO by John Edward Weems


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On Monday, May 11, 1953, at about 4:30 p.m., people in Waco, Texas, a town legendary for its absence of tornados, found themselves suddenly cast into pitch-blackness full of hopping, dazzling electrical wires, and standing in rooms abruptly windowless as walls turned to cornflakes and disappeared: they were ""experiencing realities more appropriate to nightmares."" One woman, praying mightily in the screeching thundering dark, recalls, ""I saw God face to face."" A man in City Hall walked to the open edge of his office and glanced downward, then ran to a door that once opened into a hall, turned the knob, stepped into space, and vanished. Within moments over a hundred folks died and a thousand were injured, 850 homes and 196 buildings went whoosh or soon had to be demolished--and 376 more were declared unsafe. Property damage: $51 million or more. Like the privileged moment in movies, where you watch an action repeated from several points of view, the brief life of Weems' tornado is expanded to fill half a book with eyewitness horrors. The other half is general tornado information, including a sort of Big Winds in History, a survey of the state of the art of meteorology, and safety warnings. The central device is one more variation on John Hersey's Hiroshima--but the events still chill face to face with a power that defies reason.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1977
ISBN: 0890964602
Publisher: Doubleday