TORNADO WATCH #211 by John G. Fuller


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Here, the usually reliable Fuller, veteran chronicler of the bizarre (Incident to Exeter--UFOS; The Ghost of Flight 401--haunted airplanes; We Almost Lost Detroit--nuclear accident; etc.) gives the outrÉ (this time, an army of tornadoes tearing up Ohio/Pennsylvania in 1985) merely pedestrian treatment. It's the predictability of Fuller's approach that leaches this book of real drama--with melodrama taking its place. From the start, he chronicles tornadoes as if they're monsters in a horror movie--and hews to the clichÉs of that film genre. He begins by showing the storm threat far away, when two air masses, ""two invisible armies began a collison course."" Then he cuts to his heroes (the dedicated men of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City), then to varied families leading Steven Spielbergish-perfect lives along the Ohio/Pennsylvania border. It's back and forth between tornadoes, meteorologists, and future victims as--marked by the lurid chapter heads--the air masses march towards their ""Collision Course""; ""The Enemy Forms"": towns lie in the tornadoes' path like ""A Row of Duckpins""; etc. Thankfully, Fuller spices this standard scenario with some salty weather detail and tornado lore (""the swath of destruction can range from a few feet to two miles in width"")--and his descriptions of tornadoes ripping through towns are astonishing (at least at first; one so nearly mirrors the other that they soon lose punch). A tracing of how the devastated towns recovered (the Amish in particular shine in their good Samaritan deeds) concludes Fuller's tale, with an Appendix listting tornado facts and do's and don't's wrapping things up. Not quite a tempest in a teapot, but definitely less than full-blown Fuller.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1987
Publisher: Morrow