A wind-swept re-creation of a deadly meteorological catastrophe conveyed through the perspectives of those who survived it.
Describing the 2011 three-day, multistate superstorm as “the biggest tornado outbreak in the history of recorded weather” could be considered an understatement to journalist and Southern Living editor Cross, who spent a year researching and documenting it. Building on a foundation of interviews, video records, frantic text messages and personal memorabilia, she intricately details the entire ordeal, from the formation of the first of hundreds of ferocious funnel clouds to the sheer destruction and human anguish left in their wakes. Springtime in the South means tornado season, an ominous period that “hovered like an unspoken question” over Southern states like Mississippi and Alabama, which suffered the greatest wrath from the disastrous superstorm that created over 350 tornadoes over a three-day period. Cross chronicles this historic weather event through the eyes of an affecting assortment of residents whose lives were touched by the natural disaster unfolding in their own backyards, interspersed with accompanying documentation of the storm’s increasing ferocity, which, in the end, created a “mile-wide swath of emptiness” where once-thriving neighborhoods stood. The author profiles promising University of Alabama students, families, fearless storm chasers, dedicated disaster responders and weathermen with their eyes on the blackened skies. Though topographical media and photographs aren’t included, Cross journalistically illustrates the storm’s unrelenting fury, heartbreaking aftermath and organized recovery efforts through dramatic firsthand stories, putting a human face on a tragic chain of events that claimed a devastating 348 casualties in 72 hours. The author also includes an “In Memoriam” section that lists the “Alabamians who lost their lives and…the people who face a world without them.”
Armchair storm chasers will find much to savor in this grippingly detailed, real-time chronicle of nature gone awry.