Tornado Preface

Used by permission from TORNADO-Accounts of Tornadoes in Iowa by John L. Stanford; copyright Iowa State University Press 1987


This book is dedicated to the Lord, who designed the earth and the skies.

His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

Nahum chapter 1, New International Version


THE ENTHUSIASM with which the first edition of this book has been received since its appearance ten years ago has been both pleasing and humbling. The major goals of the book were achieved: to educate the general population about tornadoes and to allay some of the fears associated with such events of nature. The book has been read by many thousands of people from all walks of life. has served as source material for countless school book reports and has even been avidly digested by many of the author's professional colleagues, meteorologists whose job it is to warn us of such matters.

This second edition contains an update of noteworthy tornadoes that have occurred in the intervening decade, along with recent developments in understanding and detecting storms. The heart of the book, its safety chapter, contains additional emphasis on mobile homes, automobiles, motels, churches, schools, and shopping centers. If the second edition proves as helpful to people as the first, the author will be grateful and will consider the time preparing it well spent.


This book was not written for meteorologists or for scientists in any field, although they likely will be among its most interested readers. Furthermore, it contains no mathematical equations and the few technical terms used are explained in lay language. It was written for people on farms, in kitchens, factories, schools, and stores.

It provides accurate and readable accounts of tornadoes in Iowa and their characteristics, as well as some safety guidelines. However, the book has regional and even national interest since tornadoes anywhere have many similarities.

Tornadoes are a serious and, unfortunately for some a heart rending experience. Still, we need to understand natural phenomena if we are to cope with them adequately. Nearly everyone is afraid of the unknown; to dispel many of the unknowns about tornadoes is a major goal of this book.

Safety education is the second major purpose. For example, recent research has shown that a number of conventional ideas about tornado safety are either misleading or in error. If you were in a building without a basement, where would you seek shelter from a tornado? Would you go to the southwest side of the building as has been commonly advised? If so, the special chapter on up-to-date tornado safety guidelines is recommended reading.

Also in this book are accounts of personal experiences during tornadoes. You may occasionally smile as you read some incidents. Humor is a safety valve in times of tragedy and that is just what tornadoes often are: human tragedies. But a smile can take a heavy load from the mind. The child's remark the day following a devastating 1974 tornado in Ohio, "House all broke; toys all broke; but birds all working," provides a humorous reminder of retaining perspectives in times of stress.

It is my hope that this book will enable its readers to be far less frightened, far more equipped to survive, and able , on occasion, even to smile (respectfully) at nature's most concentrated knockout punch.

Click here to see the chapter on TORNADO SAFETY RULES.