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Night of the Twisters

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Title: Night of the Twisters  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Laura Bertram, Grand Island, Nebraska, Devon Sawa, ABC Family, John Schneider (screen actor), 20th Television, MTM Enterprises, Sumela Kay, PorchLight Entertainment, Ivy Ruckman
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Night of the Twisters

Night of the Twisters
Directed by Timothy Bond
Produced by Michael Lambermont
Stephen Roloff
Sean Ryerson
Written by Ivy Ruckman (novel)
Sam Graham (teleplay)
Chris Hubbell (teleplay)
Starring Devon Sawa
Amos Crawley
John Schneider
David Ferry
Music by Lawrence Shragge
Cinematography Peter Benison
Editing by Gary L. Smith
Studio The Family Channel
MTM Enterprises
Atlantis Communications
PorchLight Entertainment
GoodTimes Entertainment
Feature Films for Families
Distributed by 20th Television
Release date(s) February 14, 1996
Running time 92 min.
Country Canada Canada
United States USA

Night of the Twisters is a 1996 television film directed by Timothy Bond, about a family's struggle to survive a night with a bizarre and terrible storm passing over their town. The TV movie is based on the novel by Ivy Ruckman, which centers around 1980 Grand Island tornado outbreak. It was shot in Kleinburg, Ontario.

It was the first original motion picture made for The Family Channel, and it appeared on the channel (and its successor channels) until 2004.


The prologue of the movie is set in rural farmland in Dannebrog, Nebraska. Bob Iverson, a storm chaser, is driving down the road and manages to save a family from an oncoming tornado.

Meanwhile, Dan Hatch lives in Blainsworth, Nebraska (Grand Island in the book), along with his stepfather Jack, mother Laura, and baby half-brother, Ryan. Dan is an aspiring and practicing artist, but is constantly pushed by Jack to be an athlete.

The characters in the movie are Dan's family, along with Dan's friend Arthur. Arthur has two sisters, Stacey and Ronnie. Jack's mother, Belle, and Laura's sister, Goldie, are more secondary characters. Bob Iverson, arrives in Blainsworth tracking a massive storm that is arriving near the town. The action begins when Jack comes home and sits down to watch television and his show is interrupted by a severe weather announcement about a tornado sighting 14 miles northwest of Blainsworth, near the town of Dannebrog. Several minutes after Jack leaves to check on Belle, a violent tornado hits Blainsworth's Capitol Heights neighborhood, sending Dan, Ryan and Arthur take cover in a shower in the basement's bathroom as the twister starts to obliterate the Hatches' home.

As Dan and Arthur struggle to find their family, Laura and Jenny are trapped inside the local diner. They then go save their grandmother, Belle, at her farm. Dan finds Jack on a closed road covered in fallen power lines, and he pulls him from his overturned truck, seeing this as an opportunity for his father to finally see him as reliable. However, Jack just gives a simple thank-you to the fact that Dan saved him from multiple dangers and that Dan may have been the only one down the road as it was blocked by policemen due to it being unsafe.

Eventually Jack, Dan, Stacey, Arthur, and Ryan leave the shelter to go home and look for Laura. Just as Jack's truck pulls into the driveway Jenny, Bob, and Laura also drive up, and the family is reunited. As soon as everyone reunites, three tornadoes touch down near them. Bob, realizing no adequate shelter is available, advises the group to make a run for it. They, along with Bob and Jenny, make it to an overpass as the twister nearly sucks up Dan before it dissipates into the air. They walk out from under the overpass just as the sun rises on a clear day and the storm has passed. At the end of the film, Dan explains that he is going out with Arthur's sister, Stacey, while Arthur became class president, and Bob and Jenny got married and pregnant with twins. He also tells that his grandma, Belle, died the following year in '97.


Night of the Twisters received positive ratings at the time of its release in 1996, but received very poor reviews from critics, who mostly criticized the special effects. However, audiences have liked the film, leading to the film being shown on television until 2004. The film is popular among families as a good way to engage children in disaster suspense, without showing gory or disturbing images, as well as a happy ending.


Night of the Twisters was released on VHS by GoodTimes shortly after its release on television. As VHS became less popular, its replacement was a DVD that was released in 2006. However, the DVD was later discontinued and Night of the Twisters is currently out of print.

Discrepancies in the film

Differences between the film and the novel

  • In the novel, Dan had knowledge about tornadoes while in the film, he did not.
  • Dan's grandmother, Belle, was never in the novel.
  • In the film, Stacey does not help Dan and Arthur out of the basement (Dan instead is the one who gets the both of them and Ryan out), but in the novel, she does.

Differences between the film and the actual event

  • In the film, the series of tornadoes occurred in the fall. In real life, the tornadoes occurred on June 3, 1980 during the spring.
  • The first tornado that hits was on the ground for several miles and moved quickly. In real life, the tornadoes stayed within the Grand Island city limits, and crossed over their paths by looping around at only 8 mph ([convert: unit mismatch]).
  • Six tornadoes struck in the film (not counting the one in the opening prologue), while seven hit Grand Island that night. In addition, three tornadoes are depicted as being on the ground simultaneously in the film, while only two were on the ground at the same time in the Grand Island event.
  • The most destructive tornado occurred first at an unknown strength. On June 3, 1980, the fifth tornado was the most destructive at F4 intensity.

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
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