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What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,096 Ratings  ·  263 Reviews
Immersive reporting and dramatic storytelling set you right in the middle of the horrific superstorm of April 2011, a weather event that killed 348 people.

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 i
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Atria Books (first published March 1st 2015)
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Raindrops turned to leaves. Leaves gave way to objects.

"Mom! There's debris falling!" said a teenaged boy.

"Stop playing!" said his mother.

The boy pointed at a tree branch drifting down from the sky, featherlike. What looked like a twig grew into a limb. In a blink, it became a full-sized tree hurtling directly toward them. As it hit the ground nearby, green lightning spidered out of the clouds and seized it like a hand.

even without sharks in them, tornadoes are terrifying

this book covers the s
Poppy fairy
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very emotional read. Such terror and pain and death by the most catastrophic mass-tornado attack in recorded American history. This is a heartbreaking read, I am finding I have to read and then stop and grieve for sometime for those who lost their lives through the biggest tornado out-break in history of recorded weather. The book is dedicated to the Albamians who lost their lives and to the people who face a world without them.
Lisa B.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My Thoughts
Having lived in the Midwest most of my life, I am no stranger to tornado warnings. Thankfully, I have never experienced a tornado and hope I never will. Recently, it occurred to me that I have become a bit too lackadaisical with regards to heeding the tornado warnings. Not long ago, I was actually getting mad at the weather person for interrupting my TV show (Sponge Bob).

This book is a prime example of why we should all take tornado warnings seriously. People who did everything they w
I received this signed, personalized book from a Goodreads giveaway about 3 years ago, maybe 4. Huge regrets for waiting so long to read it.

Wow, what a well-written book! And no, I wasn't tearing up reading about the lost loved ones and the struggle of surviving after the storms and recovering...

4.5 stars

This is a non-fiction book and that is usually not my favorite genre of books. But, this book is written in the style of a novel and the reader gets to look into the lives of the victims both before and after the storms hit.

On April 27, 2011, the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded in weather history hit the southern states. This novel focused primarily on the lives of families in Mississippi and Alabama. EF5 and EF4 tornadoes wreaked havoc for miles over small towns and larg
Jul 08, 2015 rated it liked it
This subject matter is rarely visited in print to the extent that it deserves. How it has changed peoples' lives and physical locations and not just in modern times. Kudos to Kim Cross for attempting this particular Superstorm and condition in 2011. However, the style of the writing was too high on melodrama and the transitions difficult to "jump" to maintain continuity in reading. Regardless, I did enjoy this book and learning about the people who suffered and who responded. Having been in 3 to ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is hard to rate a non fiction book, especially one like this, where it is not just statistics, about the weather and storms and how many died and how much money it cost the communities and states where they touched down. It is a heartbreaking story of the lives that were lost. It is also such an amazing account of how people come together to help each other when catastrophic events like those accounted in this story happen. The book also tells the story, from person to person of what was capt ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star
If you’re looking for a detailed account of the 2011 superstorm, look no further. This book provides many storylines, from an abundance of weather details to the lives of the people affected by the storm.

However, if you’re like me and just think tornadoes are cool, this book probably won’t interest you that much. Tornadoes are a very visual thing, destructive yet beautiful and mesmerizing. I don’t think tornado books really work because you don’t get that visual aspect.

This book is has an obviou
Deborah Blanchard
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a very emotional read and you will cry, I know that I did. It is an exquisitely written book of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through several southern states in 2011. Four E5 tornadoes all hit on April 27th, leveling complete communities. Although some parts are about the meteorological aspects of a tornado, it is in layman's terms and easy to understand. That is but a small part of this remarkable book. How does one survive the devastation of tornadoes? How do you go on: " For s ...more
Ellen Gail
EF5 stars. Full review sometime? Maybe. I don't know. I'm lazy and easily distracted.

That was incredibly intense and emotional and I don't know why I am fucking crying right now. I cried at a baby giraffe on TV yesterday, so maybe don't trust my emotional opinions right now. But yeah. This book made me feel things. I need to go hug my entire family, cry some more, and eat a grilled cheese. Or a churro or something I don't even know.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First half is traumatic and anxiety filled. Second half is hopeful and life-affirming. Brilliant writing and excellent journalistic reporting.
High Plains Library District
There’s a certain kind of person (myself included) who gets sucked into documentaries and eyewitness video on the Weather Channel – the kind of programming where hapless meteorologists get their legs swept out from under them by giant waves, or people film the baseball-sized hail that’s pummeling their cars in the parking lot. I admit that I’m endlessly fascinated by nature’s power. Seeing a particularly massive storm brings on a potent cocktail of awe and fear, and watching these storms on the ...more
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I remember watching a tornado form on April 3rd or 4th, 1974 as a teenager. It was a scary sight. Soon after that, we drove through the other side of town to check out the damages done by all the tornadoes that day. It was horrendous. Then I heard about the destruction in Xenia, Ohio and Brandenburg, Kentucky. A friend of my parents cancelled checks were found in Xenia, Ohio. We lived in Louisville, Kentucky. That began my fear of tornadoes.

This book is about the next largest group of hurricanes
Megan Treseder
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
The subject matter is fascinating - I'm eerily drawn to storms and tornadoes. However, the writing is like the writing for the Hallmark channel - cliched and overdone and melodramatic. But the facts and the heartbreaking stories are there, which made it a worthwhile read. I do wish there had been a better explanation of how a tornado forms. I found it fascinating how in some areas of Tornado Alley, local network meteorologists are treated like prophets. These men (why are they always men?) are h ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Kim Cross made me cry. Or rather her book did. What Stands in a Storm (Atria Books, digital galley) is subtitled "Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley,'' but I read it in hours, gripped from the very beginning:

"3:44 p.m., Wednesday, April 27, 2011 -- Smithville, Mississippi

Patti Parker watched the dark funnel grow until it filled the whole windshield, blackening the sky. Its two-hundred-mile-per-hour winds were furious enough to blast the bark off trees, suck the n
Suzi Voss
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Let me preface this review by saying I am a meteorologist and probably see this book through different eyes. April 27, 2011 is a day I will never forget. I was nearing the end of meteorology school at the time; we had been watching this severe weather setup in class and analyzing it for days. As soon as class was over on that fateful day, we all raced home to watch the storm development on our weather forecasting software. The parameters we saw were unbelievable; none of us had ever seen a conve ...more
Jenny Whetzel
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am awestruck by this book. I am literally struck with awe. What a fantastic read! Any person who loves nature, science, weather or storm chasing would enjoy this book. Her descriptive writing holds you captive and you find yourself becoming emotionally attached to the people she chose to write about. I felt anxiety while reading this, I felt like I was actually THERE. I am very pleased that the author decided to add the history of tornadoes in this book, I was not expecting it. I am excited to ...more
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'll never forget this day. It took place 4 years after a tornado destroyed my high school in Enterprise, AL, killing 8 students and changing much of the landscape forever. I really liked the detail that was given to the meteorologists, storm chasers, first responders and the personal lives of a few that lost their lives and how their families dealt with the disaster. A very emotional read that will open your eyes to the importance of preparedness.
This is a solid, well-written, and sometimes suspenseful account of the unprecedented April 27, 2011, southern U.S. tornado outbreak, the biggest such outbreak in world history, which was centered in Alabama. Some of the biggest and strongest tornadoes of all time hit Alabama and surrounding states on that day, and the death toll was horrendous. Despite that, this superstorm was in many ways a triumph for the weather services; they had predicted it days in advance. The Weather Channel's meteorol ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A lot of people don't remember the events that happened in April 2011, myself included. In the south, several states experienced weather phenomenon unlike anything they'd seen before and this book centers on some of the largest and deadliest tornadoes Alabama had ever seen. Instead of just being a non-fiction book based on facts, the author delves into the personal lives and stories of people who experienced these tornadoes first hand. She does an amazing job of scouring videos, articles, and ne ...more
Michael Jensen
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
What Stands in a Storm is a solid entry in the non-fiction genre of weather related disaster stories. Cross writers with clarity and chooses engaging people to follow and recount their stories.

One of those people is weatherman James Spann who is obviously a very smart, talented, and kind man. He is also a conservative Christian Republican who denies climate change is real. That isn't part of the book and isn't especially relevant to the story Cross tells, but I always find it sad when an otherw
Terri Lynn
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is about the horrible tornadoes that took lives, broke hearts, and destroyed everything in their paths in Mississippi and Alabama in 2011. The author takes readers into the hearts and mind of those who were victims, those who survived, those who helped and supported others, families of those who lost loved ones, and even the meteorologists who covered the storm and wept for the victims. It is so personally told, you'll feel as if you know them all.
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking stories, and Kim Cross tells them with incredible empathy. I'm sorry to miss her discussion of the book at this year's Roswell Reads luncheon.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Kim Cross does an incredible job at immersive nonfiction. She captures the power and terror of the superstorm outbreak with well-researched, clear, and suspensefully-paced writing. I also appreciate that she doesn't neglect the resilient aftermath of the disasters; lyrical passages give victims and survivors a beautiful dignity.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, excellent book. So devastatingly sad but so very well written.
Beth Wojtas
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book had me choked up throughout . I felt so connected to everyone and felt like I was right there with each person in each moment . Heartbreaking . Also good reminders of how people can look past differences and really help others in time if need . I def suggest reading this one .
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nf-challenge
This was a fascinating read. I remember the events here because that day I was at the Nashville airport trying to get on a flight to Washington DC for a medication safety conference. After 8 hours at the airport, I returned home to get on a 5am flight the next morning. It was a horrendous storm - I have family in Birmingham and North Alabama and lived in Columbus, Mississippi (about an hour's drive from Tuscaloosa). My family was lucky - no direct hits, just a lot of wind damage. So many were no ...more
Alisha Marie
I have always been interested in fatalistic weather. Not impressively interested like those in What Stands in a Storm who are interested in it and then like study weather and become meteorologists and save lives, but passively interested. Interested in a way where I constantly make sure that things such as tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, etc., don't come anywhere near me and sometimes track them to make sure they stay far, FAR away. However, What Stands in a Storm is my first non-fi ...more
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I very much enjoyed reading this book, though it was with a heavy heart. Living in "Dixie Alley" myself I know the damage and destruction that tornadoes bring us every spring and fall. Tornadoes are a beautiful thing of nature, at a distance. It is still a mystery to scientists, not as predictable as hurricanes or floods. When a tornado is bearing down on you all you can do is hunker down and pray you are one of the lucky ones to survive. I have seen my neighbor's brick house blown apart by one ...more
Paul Pessolano
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
“What Stands in a Storm” by Kim Cross, published by Atria Books.

Category – History/Meteorology Publication Date – March 10, 2015

Since reading this book I will never take a tornado warning for granted, since reading this book I will never take a severe thunderstorm for granted.

This is a marvelously told story of the deadliest and biggest tornado outbreak in history. It is a story that should be read by everyone but especially those who live in what is known as “Tornado Alley”. Tornado ally is an
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2015 Reading Chal...: What Stands in a Storm by Kim Cross 1 8 May 08, 2015 08:27AM  
  • Storm Warning: The Story of a Killer Tornado
  • The Mercy of the Sky: The Story of a Tornado
  • F5: The Devastating Tornado Outbreak of 1974
  • Storm Kings: America's First Tornado Chasers
  • The Great Hurricane: 1938
  • Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-Defying Adventures in Extreme Weather
  • Aliens in the Backyard
  • Gone at 3:17: The Untold Story of the Worst School Disaster in American History
  • Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami
  • Ablaze: The Story of the Heroes and Victims of Chernobyl
  • When the Dancing Stopped: The Real Story of the Morro Castle Disaster and Its Deadly Wake
  • Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins
  • Everest: Mountain Without Mercy
  • To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire
  • The Other Side of History : Daily Life in the Ancient World
  • The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse
  • Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing
  • Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather
Kim Cross is a contributing editor for Southern Living and a feature writer who has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of American Travel Writers, and the Media Industry Newsletter. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Parade, Popular Mechanics, Cooking Light, Bicycling, Runner’s World, The Tampa Bay Times, The Birmingham News, The Anniston Star, USA TODAY, T ...more
More about Kim Cross

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“mater, the Auburn Tigers. In Alabama, college football is a few prayers shy of religion, and a family containing fans of both the Tigers and the Tide is a house divided. In Alabama, “Roll Tide!” and “War Eagle” can mean anything from “Congratulations on the birth of your first child” to “A curse upon your children’s children!” In Alabama, loving thy enemy as thyself is one thing, but loving the other side of the Iron Bowl is the business of Mother Teresa. Today” 0 likes
“The smell the tornado left in its wake combined pine, sulfur, and natural gas with the sickly sweet smell of death. It was a nauseating, desperate smell that clung to his nostrils and turned his stomach in every disaster zone he would ever visit. After one tornado, a man looked at him with ancient eyes and described the smell in words he would never forget: It comes from the pit of hell.” 0 likes
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