Review of "Without Warning"

Review of Without Warning: The Tornado of Udall, Kansas by Jim Minick

I had so looked forward to reading this book from the time I first heard about it, I pre-ordered it from Amazon with overnight shipping. I have been fascinated by the meteorology of the Udall Tornado for years and recently submitted a possible correction to the tornado paths that night to the NWS Storm Prediction Center. But, my work has been exclusively scientific and I wanted to learn more about the human side of the disaster.  

I’m sorry to report that I cannot recommend Without Warning because of the large number of factual errors it contains. These errors are not just meteorological, many are just sloppy. For example, Wichita is not “near” Sedgewick [sic] County, it is in Sedgwick County. He calls the Wichita Weather Bureau office in 1955 the National Weather Service (it was “Weather Bureau” until 1970) and, in references after that date, it is often, and incorrectly, called “NOAA Weather Station.” There are factual errors when describing the railroad that, then and now, goes through the town. There are odd racial references. Why do we care that George Curtis was “part Choctaw Indian”? That is never explained. I won’t go into all of the meteorological errors, and there are many, because I tend to be a bit more forgiving of those.


There are so many of these factual errors, it makes me question the exactitude of the human interactions which make up the core of the story. Eric Larson’s Isaac’s Storm is such an incredible read because Larson had hurricane meteorologist Hugh Willoughby working with him to make sure the meteorology was correct. 


Finally, Without Warning’s epilogue is about – you guessed it – global warming. Considering that climate science tells us that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were not sufficient to affect temperatures until 1958, three years after the Udall Tornado, global warming had nothing to do with the storm. In fact, violent tornadoes are less frequent than in the 50’s as a result of earth’s warmer climate -- which Mr. Minick does not mention. 


I enjoyed reading the stories of the people affected by this horrific tornado but, as the errors piled up, I began questioning, “Is this correct?” If you can ignore the errors, you may enjoy reading Without Warning as it is otherwise well written. I look at Without Warning as a lost opportunity. With more attention to detail and better editing, this could have been another Isaac’s Storm. I fear the full story of Udall will never be correctly told. 


Popular posts from this blog

[1:10am Update] Tornado Forecast for Rest of the Night

First Tornado Watch of the Day Issued

Hilary's Forecast Path Shifts West; Updated 9:20am PDT