CATASTROPHE: They Hoped for a Storm

The day had been muggy. Mining families, staring from the windows of their shabby-colored clapboard houses, were pleased to see the black clouds rolling up, with lightning flaring off in the distance. They hoped for a storm, as people do, to break the humid spell. At 8:30 p.m., in the 25 drab company houses that front on U.S. Route 19 as it climbs through Pleasant Hill, W. Va., supper was over, the dishes done, and the youngest children tucked away in bed. At 8:50 the windows rattled menacingly, like a snake giving warning....

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