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Author of book about 1974 tornadoes to be in Athens

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — An author who has captured the terror Limestone County residents like Donnie Powers experienced during the deadly 1974 tornadoes will speak in Athens this month.

Author Mark Levine will discuss his book called "F5: Devastation, Survival and the Most Violent Outbreak of the 20th Century."

Two tornadoes hit Limestone County within 30 minutes April 3, 1974.

"I met a number of ordinary people whose lives are dramatically changed by the storm and its aftermath," Levine said. "These include a pair of high school sweethearts, a sheriff, a preacher and an aerospace technician given to religious visions. It is the struggle of these people to hold their lives and their families together under sudden, enormous pressure, that drives the book."

The Daily featured the high school sweethearts, Donnie Powers and his now wife, Felicia Golden Powers, in an April 2004 story.

Donnie Powers was 18 and his future wife 15 the night the tornadoes struck. They had left church services and were on East Limestone Road when Powers saw a second tornado approaching.

He ordered Golden to open the door, get out and get in a ditch. When she swung her door open, rocks pelted them. The twister swallowed its victims into its swirling belly. It yanked away the windshield and sucked Powers out of the car. It flipped the vehicle three times and flung it against a utility pole.

When the twister was satisfied, it moved on, leaving Golden lying on power lines. She ignored the burns on her legs, that she was now barefoot and the strange way her foot moved. She flagged down the driver to help search for Powers, but the car's occupants, worried about her condition, took her to the hospital first.

People searching for a missing homeowner found Powers unconscious in a field 150 yards from the road. No ambulance was available to take him to Huntsville Hospital, so he rode in a hearse.

Golden had surgery because her foot was hanging by the tendons. Powers was in the hospital for a week due to a concussion.

Meet the author

Author Mark Levine will be in Athens on June 29. He will sign copies of his book at Pablos on Market in downtown Athens from 3 to 5 p.m. He will lecture at Athens State University at 7 p.m. in Room 104 of the new classroom building.

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