Storm of the Century

13 June 2012

Storm of the Century: The Regina Tornado of 1912
by Sandra Bingaman
Published by Canadian Plains Research Center
Review by Keith Foster
$29.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-248-9

If there was any doubt about the importance of newspapers to historical research, it is surely dispelled by Sandra Bingaman’s latest book, Storm of the Century.

In describing the impact of the massive tornado that struck Regina on June 30, 1912, the author draws heavily on Regina’s three daily newspapers of the time – the Leader, the Province, and the Standard. By using selected quotes from these papers, she gives the reader a feeling of almost being there. When she quotes from survivors, it’s as if one is hearing their stories directly from them.

For example, travelling salesman W.S. Ingram, who was in an office with Joseph Bryan when the storm struck, related his experience to a Standard reporter: “Strange to say, I felt no injury, other than a somewhat dazed condition. I could feel that Mr. Bryan must be on me, and reaching up my hand could feel his body. I called to him, but received no reply, and reached up again to feel his arm. The body became limp, and I was quite sure he must have been killed.”

Bingaman supplements her narrative with page after page of fascinating photos showing the devastation of destroyed homes and office buildings. She takes readers on a walking tour along the streets to view the damage in the days after the storm. It’s about as close to the real thing as one can get without being there.

This 118-page softcover book is designed almost as a coffee table book. Many of its hundreds of black and white and sepia photos have never been seen before. Especially striking are the enlargements, with one photograph spread out over two pages at the beginning of each chapter.

Bingaman clears up several myths about the storm, such as the boy in the flying canoe, and provides logical and realistic explanations of what actually happened. A retired University of Regina English professor, she has also published several Saskatchewan sports histories.

Produced in ample time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tornado, this book is bound to be popular among both general readers and history buffs. In addition, the footnotes and bibliographical essay make this attractive book useful to researchers and historical scholars.

Although perhaps not the definitive history of the tornado, Storm of the Century is a riveting account and well worth the read.


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