Storm Warning: The Story of a Killer Tornado

Until the recent tornado that destroyed Greensburg, Kan., the most devastating twister on record happened in Oklahoma in May 1999. Nancy Mathis uses that event as a springboard for a concise history of tornados. Hundreds of people have been killed by them—695 on the deadliest day in 1925. Yet, until 1952, the National Weather Service and its predecessors refused to issue tornado warnings—even when they could see tornados on radar—for fear of panicking the public. As documented by Mathis, warnings save lives: Since 1953, no single tornado has killed more than 100 people. And in spite of the title, the book’s focus is less on storms than on the people impacted by them. It’s a great story, with a snappy pace and a sympathetic but factual tone—perfect summer reading even in calmer weather.