I've used hurricanes to good effect. Also thunderstorms, snows, and torrential rains. Scorching summertime heat as well. William Kent Krueger used a derecho in his latest book, The Northwest Angle. It's a violent, widespread straight-line windstorm accompanied by showers or thunderstorms. I'd never heard of it before, but he made it very believable.
One of the most violent weather phenomena is the tornado. I don't recall ever reading about a tornado in a mystery. They should provide excellent fodder. They can turn a house into kindling and leave its contents spread all over the place. They can kill and maim. What if one of the bodies found in the shambles of a house had a bullet wound? Ah, the plot thickens.
I know what tornadoes can do. I was in one that hit East Nashville back on March 14, 1933. I still remember the day like it was last week. A seven-year-old at the time, I remember how still the air seemed that afternoon on the schoolyard. The temperature had risen to an unseasonable 80 degrees. Early that evening the old Atwater Kent radio on the living room table began to crackle with static, indicating lightning in the area. Chandu the Magician became so difficult to hear that we turned the radio off.
Hail began to batter the roof and around 7:30 p.m., the lights went out and a roaring wind came up. It sounded like a locomotive racing by in the street. Bricks began to fall down the chimney into the fireplace, and my dad herded us into the basement. It was over in minutes but the rain came down in torrents. We made our way to my aunt's house several blocks away that hadn't been damaged.
Fifteen people were killed that night. We were lucky, living in a one-story house between two-story houses, so our damage was mostly to the roofing and chimneys. A large house two blocks away was demolished, injuring a whole family. Down the street, one house had columns blown out on the porch, allowing the roof to swing down and block the front door and windows. At a friend's house, a post had blown through a wall and just missed a baby grand piano. An iron pipe sticking up above a fence in the alley behind us had been bent 90 degrees. All sorts of strange things had happened.
Freaks of the 1933 Nashville Tornado. A. A piece of plank driven through a two-and-a-half-inch limb of a Mississippi Hackberry tree. B. A two-by-four driven through a door panel without leaving splinters. C. Weatherboarding pierced by a cornstalk.
Do you know of any mysteries involving tornadoes?
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