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Without Warning, The Tornado of Udall, Kansas

Without Warning, The Tornado of Udall, Kansas

By Jim MinickPublisher: University of NebraksaISBN: 978-1-4962-3145-1Genre: Nonfiction Price: $24.95

In 1955 the small town of Udall, Kansas, was home to oil field workers, homemakers, and teenagers looking ahead to their futures. But on the night of May 25, an F5 tornado struck their town without warning. In three minutes the tornado destroyed most of the buildings, including the new high school. It toppled the water tower. It lifted a pickup truck, stripped off its cab, and hung the frame in a tree. By the time the tornado moved on, it had killed 82 people and injured 270 others, more than half the town’s population of roughly 600 people. It remains the deadliest tornado in the history of Kansas.

Jim Minick’s nonfiction account, Without Warning, tells the human story of this disaster, moment by moment, from the perspectives of those who survived. His spellbinding narrative connects this history to our world today. Minick demonstrates that even if we have never experienced a tornado, we are still a people shaped and defined by weather and the events that unfold in our changing climate. Through the tragedy and hope found in this story of destruction, Without Warning tells a larger story of community, survival, and how we might find our way through the challenges of the future

Jim Minick is the author or editor of eight books, including Without Warning: The Tornado of Udall, Kansas (nonfiction), Fire Is Your Water (novel), and The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family. His work has appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, Poets & Writers, Oxford American, Orion, Shenandoah, Appalachian Journal, Wind, and The Sun. He serves as Coeditor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel.


A time capsule of rural American lives and a testament to the tenacity and grit of the human spirit, Without Warning captures a community before, during, and after one of the most devastating natural disasters in our nation’s history. This is a story of loss and despair, resilience and hope, all rendered stunningly by prose deeply measured and tightly wrought. Minick is a master of the form.

David Joy, author of When These Mountains Burn

Without Warning is a page-turning disaster narrative in the tradition of The Perfect Storm and Isaac’s Storm: spare, vivid, suspenseful, meticulously researched, and utterly harrowing. But the havoc an F5 tornado wrecked on this quintessential Kansas small town in the spring of 1955 is only part of the story here. By taking the arc all the way from the calm before the storm to the months-long labor of rebuilding and reanimating, Jim Minick has brought an entire community lovingly to life. At heart, this is a book about how what’s best about our country confronts and overcomes the worst of our weather.

David Laskin, author of The Children’s Blizzard

Without Warning is a vivid testimony to why modern-day weather forecasting deeply matters, especially to those so often in the path of these dangerous storms. But it is also a story of resiliency—a portrait of people and a town that lost almost everything but somehow found the strength to go on. It’s only through the stories of survivors that we can try to comprehend the precarious nature of tornadoes and prepare as much as one can for a phenomenon that is still so violently unpredictable.

—Holly Bailey, author of The Mercy of the Sky