About the Book

At 7:14 p.m. on an early summer evening in 1966, an EF-5 tornado a half-mile wide barreled over an Indian burial mound at the southwest edge of Topeka, Kansas, and proceeded to slash an eight-mile channel of destruction across the breadth of Kansas’ capital city.

The towering black column packed winds of more than 200 miles an hour as it roared through the community. By the time the twister lifted over Topeka’s eastern outskirts about 20 minutes later, a university and approximately 800 homes and buildings had been destroyed. Another 3,000 were damaged. The total cost of the devastation topped $100 million, making the tornado one of the most destructive in American history.

And Hell Followed With It: Life and Death in a Kansas Tornado reconstructs the spellbinding tale of that epic day. Dozens of people from all walks of life who survived the event have been interviewed; each provides a highly personal and often emotional account of what they saw, felt and heard.

The book also provides a panoramic backdrop of time and place. There’s the Indian legend about the hill that was supposed to shield the city from tornadoes and the curse that destroyed that protection, the history of settlement on the Great Plains and a gritty rendering of everyday life in a largely blue-collar, middle-American community in the mid-1960s.

And Hell Followed With It likewise offers a concise and highly readable summary of the science associated with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. And it reveals the shocking, but virtually unknown, story of the bureaucratic cowardice that precluded development of a national tornado forecasting and warning system in the United States for more than a half-century.

This book is about the power of nature, man’s courage and resilience in the face of that power and the changes that inevitably accompany survival, both for individuals and a community. What these people did, the split-second, life-and-death decisions they made and the way they coped with their experiences for years afterward makes for a powerful narrative. The result is a tightly woven tale that conveys in gut-wrenching detail what it’s like when Mother Nature careens out of control.