Book Review: What Stands in a Storm by Kim Cross


As I headed home from work on April 27, 2011, I heard on the radio that a large tornado, probably an EF5, had just hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was on its way to Birmingham. When I got home, I turned on the Weather Channel immediately and watched, transfixed, as they filmed the tornado’s approach toward downtown from a hill outside its path. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, live, while the sun shone outside my own window.

Later, my sister called to report that my brother-in-law’s hometown of Cullman had been hit by another large tornado that afternoon. Thankfully, all of his family members were okay and had minimal property damage. With the intense coverage of the Tuscaloosa tornado, I didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of the earlier Cullman storm until I was there for Thanksgiving that fall. Lance’s mom swung by downtown to show me the damage, and sure enough, even in the dark, six months later, you could see the tornado’s path clearly. I noticed on that trip that many households in Cullman were displaying the same professional photo of the tornado with its two funnels, blacker and more ominous than any clouds I’ve ever seen in person. Maybe they wanted a constant reminder of what they’d survived, from what they’d been spared. I probably would.

Kim Cross’s What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley is a chronological retelling of the largest tornado outbreak in recorded history through the eyes of the people who lived it. Cross follows legendary Birmingham weatherman James Spann and his staff; a group of University of Alabama students and roommates in Tuscaloosa, and their families and friends; and multiple witnesses and first responders. Her research is thorough, her interviews are compassionate, and she explains the technical weathery details in a very understandable way. At times, the writing felt excessively dramatic to me… but so was the event itself. Plus, describing a tornado’s destruction poetically in 20 different ways must be no small feat.

Although sad, What Stands in a Storm is a fascinating, suspenseful read that gave me perspective on what the people of Alabama endured that crazy day. I hope this tornado outbreak stands alone in history for a very long time.

Recommended for: fellow weather nerds, Alabamans

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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