The Tornado

The Tornado

The Tornado

The Tornado


The Tornado gives account of one of the world’s most terrifying natural disasters. Twisters have left their wake of freakish consequences throughout the United States and the world, and The Tornado vividly describes some of the most bizarre from around the country—houseboats sailing through the air; cars flown to a landing half a cornfield away; an entire house lifted and demolished, leaving only a divan holding the uninjured family.

The most detailed description of a tornado and the violence it can bring comes from the author’s focus on the tragedy of one American town in 1953. John Edward Weems was an eyewitness reporter of a funnel that hit Waco, Texas, on May 11 of that year. In gripping narrative, he portrays the events of that day: a man clinging to a guard rail while a mailbox, plate glass, bricks, and assorted debris whizzed past his head; automobiles rolling end on end down the street; buildings falling like blocks knocked down by an angry child; a movie theater crumbling on the terrified patrons. When the storm had passed, 114 people were dead and hundreds injured; property damage ran in the tens of millions of dollars.

Research in news reports, government weather documents, and books flesh out this account, which Pulitzer-prize winner Annie Dillard called “wonderfully exciting. It is full of people, and the thousands of details that make up their lives—and deaths. [It is] a story of enormous power.” John Banta, writing in the Waco Tribune-Herald, described it as “a gripping story of human drama and tragedy.” Kirkus Reviews said, “. . . the events still chill face to face with a power that defies reason.”


“The Tornado” that struck the heart of one American city May 11, 1953, is vanishing into the mists of recorded weather history, but it will always remain vivid in all its horror to people who witnessed its awesome destructive power.

That includes the author of this book.

The original edition (1977) was researched and written in 1975–76 at the request of Doubleday, publisher, and my book agent of those years. He had become aware of my firsthand newspaper reporting of the 1953 tornado and had asked the publisher about possible interest in such a story. Here, in this Texas A&M University Press edition, it is told after having been out of print for years.

Changes have been kept to those considered essential, but there haven’t been many. the original text can still stand as rep-

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