Night of the Twisters

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Night of the Twisters
Night of the Twisters film poster.jpg
DVD release poster
Directed by Timothy Bond
Produced by Michael Lambermont
Stephen Roloff
Sean Ryerson
Written by Sam Graham
Chris Hubbell
Based on Night of the Twisters 
by Ivy Ruckman
Starring Devon Sawa
Amos Crawley
John Schneider
David Ferry
Music by Lawrence Shragge
Cinematography Peter Benison
Edited by Gary L. Smith
Distributed by The Family Channel
Release dates
February 14, 1996
Running time
92 min.
Country Canada Canada
United States USA
Language English

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 Irisen is driving down the road and manages to rescue a family's life from an oncoming tornado that destroys their farm.

Meanwhile, teenager Dan Hatch lives in (the fictional town of) Blainsworth, Nebraska (the book is set in the city of Grand Island), 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 Darlington. Arthur has two sisters, Stacey and Ronnie Vae. Jack's mother, Belle Zephyr, and Laura's sister, Jenny, are more secondary characters. Bob Irisen 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, as the show he is watching is interrupted by a severe weather bulletin 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.

After Dan and Arthur escape from the basement of the leveled home through the collapsing floor beams where the first floor once stood, and look in awe of the rubble that was once the Hatches' home, Arthur runs into Stacey and Ronnie Vae, who both survived the twister themselves in the Darlington's home (their parents were out of town on a trip back home to California at the time the storm hit). As Dan struggles to find his own family, Laura and Jenny are trapped inside the Salty Dawg, the local diner where Laura works as a waitress, which also gets destroyed by one of the tornadoes. Dan and Stacey then go save Dan's grandmother, Belle, at her farm; the two teenagers find Belle underneath wooden boards blown onto her from off of the partially damaged barn near her house (which itself survived intact). As Dan and Stacey rush in the car to get Belle treated for her injuries, Dan finds Jack on a closed road covered in fallen power lines; he pulls him from his overturned truck (with the help of emergency crews, after an earlier attempt by Dan and Stacey to push the truck in order to free him nearly injures Jack further), 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.

Later that night at the shelter, Dan reveals to Stacey that Jack is his stepfather and that his real father, Daniel Sr., was a pilot who was killed in a plane crash when Dan was 6. After telling her that he feels that he isn't good enough in Jack's eyes and talks about the good qualities that his stepfather has, Stacey helps Dan consider that the two could try and find some common ground.

Eventually, Jack, followed by Dan and Ryan, who sneak into the station wagon loaned to Jack, leave the shelter to go and look for Laura. Just as Bob pulls his truck into the driveway of the destroyed house, helping passengers Jenny and Laura along with him searching for Jack, Dan and Ryan, Jack's station wagon also drives 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. The group narrowly escapes one of the twisters, which picks up a car that the Hatches' neighbors try to outrun the tornado in themselves, destroys several buildings in its path and hurls a tree branch into the windshield, briefly knocking Jack unconscious – causing Dan to take over driving the vehicle out of the storm's path. They, along with Bob and Jenny, make it to an overpass as the twister blows out the back window of the station wagon, nearly sucking up Dan before it dissipates into the air. As they walk out from under the overpass just as the sun rises on a clear day after the storm has passed, Jack admits he's proud of Danny for not giving up in the face of adversity and trying to reunite the family.

In the film's epilogue, showing what happened with the characters one year after the storm, Dan explains that he is now dating Stacey, while Arthur became class president, and Bob and Jenny got married and are becoming first-time parents to twins. He and Jack have also become closer and Jack is now supportive of him. He also tells that his grandma, Belle, died the following year in 1997.


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[edit]

Differences between the film and the novel[edit]

  • 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.
  • While the film takes place in 1996, the novel takes place in 1980.

Differences between the film and the actual event[edit]

  • In the film, the series of tornadoes occurred in the fall. In real life, the tornadoes occurred on June 3, 1980 during the summer.
  • 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 (13 km/h).
  • Eight tornadoes struck in the film (not counting the one in the opening prologue, although Jack's narration in the final scene prior to the epilogue states that half of Blainsworth was "ravaged by anywhere from 10 to 15 tornadoes"), while seven hit Grand Island that night. In addition, four 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. In addition, the final scene in which the Hatches leave the overpass that they take shelter under in the final tornado has the family walking off as the sun has risen – Jack states in his narration that the tornadoes occurred over the span of three hours, thus creating an incorrect timeline as the events leading up to the tornadoes hitting Blainsworth take place in the evening; the Grand Island outbreak does take place over three hours, however all seven tornadoes touch down between 8:45 and 10:45 p.m.[1]
  • The most destructive tornado occurred first at an unknown strength. On June 3, 1980, the fifth tornado was the most destructive at F4 intensity.


  1. ^ The Grand Island Tornadoes: A Look Back at June 3rd, 1980

External links[edit]