What Stands In A Storm by Kim Cross (5 out of 5)


Obviously, when I read the description of this book on the S&S website, I asked Wendy to send me a copy. Anyone who knows me knows I love weather, and I am fascinated by tornadoes especially. I’m also that odd duck who finds them breathtaking- and not just in person, but in photographs, etc. I watch all the Storm Stories. I watch the storm chaser shows- several years back, I had a talk with a nice kid named Zach who wanted to take a storm chasing class. So- it’s not just me! I have read a lot of books on Mother Nature and her fury. I had NOT heard of this tornado supercell outbreak in April of 2011 (the fact that I was moving from my house of thirty years to my own home may have had something to do with not having a damn clue this even happened). I had (for shame!) never heard of the Southern Tornado Alley (Dixie Alley). Until now. And what an indelible impression Kim Cross makes with her staggeringly human rendering of those three days, and beyond. I enjoyed that one of the South’s favorite sons, Mr. Rick Bragg, did the foreword, and what a simply written and poignant foreword it is. I knew from that foreword that this was a book I was not going to put down. Until I finished it 2 hours and 23 minutes after I started. The last time I read a book about a weather phenomenon that so grabbed my attention and had me crying my eyes out by the end was Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. This book has taken the top spot. One of the things I could always complain about it the human factor being lost adrift in a sea of pages. Not the case here. Kim Cross doesn’t let you forget all of the participants in the three days that shook the South. Not for a single minute. Because even when you aren’t reading about them in a particular chapter of the book, they’re in your head to the point you’re going, “What about those girls who are terrified in that house in Beverly Heights?”. Those people take up residence in your heart and mind, and they do not leave. After the book ends, you wonder how some of the people who lived through this storm are faring. You wonder how the families of those who didn’t are doing. You wonder about how the communities are rebuilding their destroyed towns and lives. You wonder if Rosedale ever recovered its community. And the voices of those who permeate the book will continue to do so, long after you finish the book. It’s a testimony to how well Cross has gotten the story of that awful storm across. Because in all of the darkness that comes after the storm, eventually the sun does come out again. Never does it seem as obvious as when you finish reading it. Kim Cross has done an amazing job of telling the stories of those who were in the path of this monstrous storm system.

April 25-28, 2011 saw the largest and most destructive tornado outbreak in US meteorological history. The potentially explosive weather machine cranked out 355 tornadoes all the way from Texas all the way to Canada. The centerpiece of most of the destruction was Alabama on April 27. 355 confirmed deaths in Alabama alone. This book covers the Alabama side. Most people don’t realize that Alabama holds the record for tornado fatalities in the United States! A book like this scarily paints, with objective reporting and emotive narrating, what happens when Mother Nature whips up a storm of catastrophic proportions. From the three college students trapped in a house alone to a weatherman who could easily rival Jim Cantore in terms of superstar meteorologist status, to the storm chasers and spotters who take their lives into their own hands by confronting the beast head on, to the small Section 8 housing community that is wiped out, to the feisty young lady who finds herself in mortal danger of never walking again from her injuries in the storm, to the families of those who are affected, to the emergency and rescue people, to the volunteers, to those who had to give dying babies CPR, there isn’t a single person in the book that isn’t a hero or heroine in some right. There are no easy chapters in this book, but there is a shit ton of hope by the end of it. There’s a good deal of common sense in the book too- Spann, the meteorologist whose at the center of this, finds a way to get the word out about the importance of weather radios vs tornado sirens. There are moments like that scattered throughout the book. I was thrilled that the “tornado turtle” position, which is technically what the crouch taught to kids in schools is called, is addressed. Also the old myth of opening the windows to dispel the force of winds when in a situation where a tornado is near. All of these, and others, are brought to the surface. The importance of educating the generations is also brought to the forefront, in advance of the storm that Cross addresses here. The grief that Spann and others in the book feel after all is over with? It’s nice to see a human face, even on those who have to do this as an everyday. At the end, when all has blown over, what’s left is stunning and horrifying. This book? Just the opposite. Read it, pass it onto anyone who loves a human tragedy, because what happened to the state of Alabama on April 27, 2011, can only be classified as that, due to the loss of human life, the billions of dollars in damage, and the fear that something like that could happen again (the unpredictability of weather, ever present). But more importantly, it can be classified as a story of the strength of the human spirit and the rise of the fallen in the start of a new day. Truly a book that will stay with you for a long, long time. Well done, Ms. Cross.

~ by generationgbooks on March 4, 2015.

5 Responses to “What Stands In A Storm by Kim Cross (5 out of 5)”

  1. I was in a direct hit from one of those tornadoes in Alabama. It’s something I never really moved past. You did an excellent review of Kim Cross’ book, which I will definitely read! Partly as a coping mechanism, I wrote up the story of the storm and its aftermath as the first post on my blog, and also made a post on the 3rd anniversary.

    • I am so happy that you saw my review and commented. Thank you. I was tremendously moved by the book, and by what everyone went through. I can’t even imagine. The strength of everyone involved- my god, I was bawling at several points of the book, it moved me that much. Y’all are fighters and I am so glad you made it through. I will definitely follow your blog and check out those posts. Very interested in reading your accounts….also, Kim’s book is out Tuesday March 10th…so check it out. I think she did an amazing job of recreating everything.

  2. Many thanks for following me and for checking out my storm posts! I’m planning to check out Kim’s book for sure. I hope her book, along with tornado histories by others, will help convey the reality of how dangerous these storms are, so everyone will take them seriously and be prepared.

    • I hope people do that as well. That’s what I liked about her book; that she didn’t forget to mention the “tornado turtle”, the importance of the weather radios, and the myths that have been bandied about for so many years. If people pay attention to those things, how many lives would be saved? And word of mouth helps if people get the word out! I wish more people would write books about tornado histories. I also wish more people were aware of Dixie Alley- as I said in my post, I’m a weather freak, and I had NO IDEA that that swath of geography was known as such. I’m from Chicago, so we’ve seen our share of Midwest Tornadoes (1925 and 1967, if memory serves correctly), but Alabama? No idea. None. So not only was I brought into the lives of all of those who were effected by the outbreak in 2011, but I learned some new stuff myself. A learning and a gut-wrenching experience all in one. I hope she gets mad props for this book.

  3. I hope Kim’s book gets loads of attention too! I came from the MD-VA area and in the 50s and 60s we thought of tornadoes as being in the Midwest. So when I arrived in AL I was very surprised to learn of tornadoes in this part of the country. I don’t think it’s generally known. OTOH a substantial number of people from other regions came down to help us – for which we are forever grateful – so the word must have gotten out somehow. The speed of news via Internet may have a hand in that. And, there are numerous videos, some by amateurs, of the tornadoes of 4.27.11 including the one that hit us. Of course when I mention those I have to say, never ever try to take a video if you see a tornado, get yourself out of the way if you can, if you can’t, take cover!

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