Q & A with Tornado! Author Judith Brindell Fradin
What inspired you to write a book about tornados?
Dennis and I are Midwesterners. As such, every spring and summer, we experience volatile weather, fascinating and frightening at the same time. Several years ago, our house and car were damaged by a downdraft—a phenomenon, like a tornado, caused by a cold front colliding with warm, unstable air. Last year, a tornado struck less than a mile from where I was driving with my daughter and granddaughters. Watching the gigantic wall cloud approach us and feeling the wind-driven, instantaneous 25 degree temperature drop was terrifying, forcing us to seek shelter. Who knows what this spring will bring as cold fronts from the north, winds from the west, and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico collide and spin over our area?
Why is it so difficult to predict when a tornado might hit?
Tornado prediction is much more reliable now than ever. The Storm Prediction Center monitors radar and satellite imagery to watch the creation of spinning storm cells, then monitor conditions that could lead to severe weather. Sirens sound, alerting citizens to take shelter. For these reasons, there are fewer serious injuries and fatalities from twisters than in the past.
Is there any other weather phenomenon you might want to write about in the future? Why? We’ve already written our WITNESS TO DISASTER series for National Geographic Children’s Books: VOLCANOES! HURRICANES! EARTHQUAKES! TSUNAMIS! and DROUGHTS! Our FLOODS book has been written, but not yet published.
What is the most fascinating thing about a tornado?
In an era when humans like to think we can control the trajectory of our lives more and more, tornadoes remind us of the power of Nature and encourage us, like our ancestors, to learn to read the skies.
There is some stunning photography in the book. Do you think people risk too much getting close to dangerous forces in the pursuit of snapping great photos?
People who photograph dramatic and violent forces of Nature fall, in my mind, into three categories. Some are scientists, prepared with state-of-the-art storm-monitoring equipment and vehicles. The scientists understand, respect, and fear the forces of nature they study. Some are storm-chasers—risk-takers who, with lesser knowledge and equipment, shoot stunning images. Finally, there are amateur photographers who find themselves in the path of an approaching storm, whip out their cameras, click the shutter and snag awesome images. We sift through thousands of photographs taken by scientists, storm-chasers and amateurs to acquire the pictures for our books.