It was April 3, 1974 and the United States was in turmoil. Crime was soaring, unemployment and inflation were out of control, the Vietnam War had just come to a demoralizing end and the soon-to-be-disgraced President Nixon was on his way out of office. Then, over a sixteen-hour period, nature stepped forward with its own display of mayhem, as an unprecedented outbreak of 148 tornadoes descended on the country. The destruction wrought was horrifying - hundreds killed, thousands of homes demolished, a billion dollars in losses sustained. Amidst this chaos, acclaimed journalist Mark Levine follows the devastating path of a twin set of F5s - the rarest, and most deadly, category of tornado, and their impact on a rich cast of intertwined characters. Ordinary lives are transformed in one bewildering, terrifying instant: a pair of teenage lovers caught while driving on a dark country road; a Vietnam veteran trapped at home with a newborn baby; a sheriff caught in the line of fire twice in rapid succession; and a black preacher with a past of dire hardship struggling to protect his family. Other figures enter the story from the broader cultural scene: Hank Aaron, on his way to challenging baseball's home run record amid racist death threats; Patty Hearst, whose image as kidnapping victim is undergoing a radical shift; Richard Nixon, intent on using the storms for his political advantage; and a memorably eccentric scientist, known as Mr Tornado, who regards the 'Superoutbreak' as the apotheosis of his scholarly life. "American Tornado" provides a vivid and remarkable portrait of a unique point in time - a time of incredible and unsettling convergence, where weather and people collided, and the fortunes of a series of characters, obscure and famous, would change forever.
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Mark Levine has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Men's Journal, and many others. He has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award in feature writing, and his articles have been included in Best American Magazine Writing and Best American Sportswriting. American Tornado is his first nonfiction book.
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