Friday, May 10, 2019

Book Review: Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-Defying Adventures in Extreme Weather


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Just an aside before we get started, I find it rather fitting that I am writing this review today, of all days, when one of my favorite movies of all time premiered in theatres:

I used to think Reed Timmer was just another egotistical boneheaded adrenaline junkie. Turns out he still is, but he is also far more intelligent than I have previously given him credit for and I ended up not being completely put-off by his book.

I used to love watching Storm Chasers, though Reed drove me crazy (and Sean Casey, don't even get me started!) because he would take such huge risks that always seemed in the end not quite worth it. Almost dying one hundred times just to get the closest shot possible is just not a risk I want to take. Timmer is free to do that of course, and I don't think for him it is a matter of wanting to, but needing to. he makes it clear in his book that he HAS TO chase every storm he possibly can. And that's fine for him. But there were a couple stories he recounted in his book where he made that decision not only for himself, but for the people chasing with him and that was unfair. Putting yourself in danger is one thing, but making that choice for others is not cool, especially when they have made it clear they do not want to be put in that position.

There is no denying that Reed Timmer is intelligent about how the weather all works. The book is an easy read and he pretty clearly explains the basics so readers understand how tornadoes and hurricanes come into being. He also includes a glossary at the end of the book that readers might find helpful if they forget what something means.

Prior to this, I knew nothing of Timmer besides the antics I saw on the show - and also that he now has himself a nice little weather-related empire after starting his website so many years ago. It really worked out for Timmer that he was just getting into the weather video game so to speak, as YouTube was a little fledgling thing; that timing could not have been more perfect. While that's all well and good now, in the book Timmer (or, his 'co-author') recounts how this all came to be. He was a freshman at OU and was bored by the basics in his intro classes because it was stuff he already knew. Despite this kind of statement, I did not interpret that as any kind of bragging. It's pretty obvious in any field that if you are really, really interested in something, an intro course will not be a whole lot of fun for you. That would be like expecting me to sit through a semester of an Intro to Medieval History class - I'd want to be up there teaching the class for myself. But, anyway, Reed didn't want to be up there teaching, he wanted to be out in the field, chasing storms. He did so throughout his undergraduate and graduate days, dragging along a variety of friends and acquaintances. Some knew what they were getting into, some did not, and some probably would never go back out with him again. Throughout this time Timmer scrapes together money selling videos, quickly learning how many times he can sell footage, and how to make the most of the film he's got. 

One topic Timmer does not shy away from is that of his relationship to others in the same field, those who felt and may still feel that Timmer's recklessness are a detriment to what they do. He's been accused more time than anyone can count of taking risks he does not need to, nor should not take. I never got the impression that Timmer felt like he was above this criticism. He is very honest about this and that he understands why they are concerned, but also that he is doing things his way. I think he does want to be accepted, or at least did in those early days, by the more traditional storm-chasing community, and it wasn't as though he did not listen to what they were saying. Even so, he has this almost uncontrollable impulse to go farther and deeper into a storm every single time, which will always put him at odds with much of the rest of his field.

Timmer is passionate about what he does and that comes through on pretty much every page. It would be interesting to read new material about his more recent adventures in the last nine years or so since this was published.



  1. LOVE Twister. One of my Top 50 films. SO funny, So dramatic....!

    1. Seriously one of the best movies ever! And soooooo dramatic - the whole 'being inside the tornado' thing at the end cracks me up every time. BUT, such a good movie and tornado season is now creeping up on us here in the Midwest, so this read was pretty timely!

  2. Ironically, Reed annoyed me more in the book than in the TV series! I also didn't greatly like Sean but I loved Storm Chasers. Twister was a great film which I rewatch a lot. I've still to look at Into The Storm which got really mixed reviews but I'll watch it anyway...

    1. That's funny that our reactions to Reed are so opposite! Sean drove me crazy, he was just always SUCH A BABY! I expected him to stomp his feet and pout sometimes, he was so dramatic. I really liked Tim Samaras and his death was was so tragic. I read a great book about him last year called "The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras" by Brantley Hargrove.

      I might have to watch Twister today - have to do that when Eleanor is at her dad's house, so she does not get too scared of storms!

  3. People who go beyond reason for their passions have always intrigued me, though I know a few like that and they can be ultra annoying to be around.

    1. Yeah, I def have a tolerate/annoyed relationship in regards to Timmer. he is not well-received in the chaser community even now sometimes, I think. But he has so much $$$, it doesn't even register with him I am sure. I do like the fact that he acknowledges often that the very thing he constantly seeks out and wants to find is the exact thing that can destroy lives, and that he tries to find a balance, while also knowing that the work he does (sometimes) contributes to learning more about tornadoes. Every bit of knowledge helps, if it saves lives.


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