Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, 18:2 (Fall 2008) 236-237. Copyright © 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


As a storm chaser and meteorologist myself, I admit my expectations for this book by an "outsider" were relatively low. For the most part, however, Mathis has gotten it right, evidently as a result of extensive research on her part.

The book alternates in a somewhat erratic fashion between tornado survivor anecdotes and narrative about the events of May 3, 1999, and the science behind those events. From a purely storytelling viewpoint, I find this alternation of topics somewhat distracting, though others might find it entertaining. "This book," the author says in her introduction, "is the life story of one tornado on one day and its consequences-not just any tornado, but the most powerful tornado to strike a metropolitan area. It is the life story of a tornado researcher and his legacy-not just any researcher, but the most brilliant meteorological detective of the twentieth century. And it is the story of the lives touched by such a harsh hand on May 3, 1999." While these somewhat hyperbolic rankings may be arguable close to the truth, the stories of several tornadoes are actually told here, as are the stories of several researchers. Unfortunately, the book lacks a proper index.