I live in North Texas, on the edge of “Tornado Alley”, a broad area of the United States where tornado activity occurs most. I have grown up with tornado sirens, tornado drills, and text messages from my mother telling me to go hide in the bathroom with the cats (messages I mostly ignore, sorry Mom). I think severe weather is fascinating — the immense power that storms create and the damage they cause — and luckily I’ve haven’t experienced too much firsthand. I’ve definitely hid the bathtub a few times, and filed more than one insurance claim for hail or wind damage, but most of my experience with storms has been of the “grab a beer and watch it from the back porch” variety rather than feeling any real danger. There are so many communities who had suffered so much damage and loss from storms. Kim Cross’s What Stands in a Storm made me feel much more respect for the terror that weather can bring.
“April 27, 2011, marked the climax of a superstorm that saw a record 358 tornadoes rip through twenty-one states in three days, seven hours, and eighteen minutes. It was the deadliest day of the biggest tornado outbreak in recorded history, which saw 348 people killed, entire neighborhoods erased, and $11 billion in damage.”
This book takes a deep dive into those three days — Cross collects survivor testimonies, news articles, forecasts, and so many statistics. She also explains the science of storms, which interested not only because I learned a lot, but also because there is SO MUCH we still don’t know about weather. The survivor testimonies were the hardest to read. Kids hiding in school classrooms, families cowering in trailer parks, individuals trapped in their cars when the storm hit. And of course, the stories of the people who were lost — some never recovered.