In the course of his numerous talks and presentations to college and grade school students, civic clubs, and nursing homes, climatologist Randy Cerveny found that people of all ages are fascinated by the "unusual"—and he seized on that fascination to tell them about strange weather. Now, in his first book, the rest of us can learn of real, documented stories such as these: Odd occurrences of chickens losing all their feathers during tornadoes (so-called "chicken plucking"); Strange stories of finding lightning ...
In the course of his numerous talks and presentations to college and grade school students, civic clubs, and nursing homes, climatologist Randy Cerveny found that people of all ages are fascinated by the "unusual"—and he seized on that fascination to tell them about strange weather. Now, in his first book, the rest of us can learn of real, documented stories such as these: Odd occurrences of chickens losing all their feathers during tornadoes (so-called "chicken plucking"); Strange stories of finding lightning victims who have been completely stripped of all of their clothes (through a process known as "the vapor effect"); Weird stories of how past powerful hailstorms have both led to the ending of one war—and the complete prevention of another; Bizarre uses of weather—such as the strange contraption called a "windwagon" that literally "sailed" nearly 500 miles from Kansas to Colorado; Each chapter in Freaks of the Storm encompasses the oddities of a specific type of weather, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, and hail. The author also divides specific conditions into a set of categories associated with the overall phenomena.
Though the night was way hot, thanks to Cerveny, I knew it wasn't nearly as bad as the 1901 heat wave that closed the stock exchange and "caused hundreds of deaths. The heat in the city became so intense that the street asphalt actually softened, and wheels ploughed deep ruts in the streets [and] more than a thousand horses died from heatstroke." Cataloging not just heat but all sorts of weird weather, this is fascinating. Odd fact: some of the biggest megacyrometeors-huge ice balls-hail (hardy har har) from New York, including a 50-pounder near LaGuardia in February 1953 and a ten-pounder near Idlewild. Consider New York's humble but mighty fog, which in 1928 caused a "total of eight ocean liners [to] collid[e] in the fogbound ports." Failboat Ahoy! Douglas Lord, "Books for Dudes," Booksmack! 10/7/10
Fish falling from the sky. Tornadoes plucking chickens. Lightning welding an unfortunate soldier into his sleeping bag when it struck the zipper. Weather is not only powerful and dangerous (as we've seen all too clearly of late) but just plain strange. This compendium of the weird drawn from climatologist Cerveny's database describes over 500 incidents, from lightning strikes to hurricanes, blizzards to dust devils. Cerveny groups the incidents by type of weather and then by type of occurrence. He gleefully jumps from the past (lightning burning the rings of six gold coins into the skin of a 19th-century victim) to the present (a young woman temporarily blinded when lightning struck her tongue stud), with little attempt to explain how weather works. This book is good for a quick read in a spare moment, but without any narrative to drive it, it turns into a mind-numbing procession of bizarre facts. But bring on tales of cross-shaped hail and a heat wave that roasted a town from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees in a matter of minutes: Cerveny is here to remind us that if you need something interesting to discuss, you can indeed just talk about the weather. Agent, Andree Abecassis. (Jan. 9) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Boggling stories of crazy weather, from ice fogs and black blizzards to whirlwinds of fire, accompanied by explanations of the whys and wherefores. "Nature is powerful. On occasion, it also can be incredibly weird," writes Cerveny (Weather and Climate/Arizona State Univ.) with characteristic conviviality. Its weirdness comes across with a vengeance in these accounts of eye-popping, jaw-dropping weather events. The ferocious force of great storms is one thing, as anyone who has experienced a major hurricane or a tornado will attest, but it is the oddities, the real freaks of weather, that Cerveny uses to capture his readers. People are swept up in tornadoes and settled gently back down to earth. Cows and train cars fly. A single stroke of lightning kills 835 sheep. Bailing out of a plane, pilots get caught in the frigid up-and-down drafts of a thunderstorm, are encased by ice and fall to earth as human hail. It rains fishes, toads and snakes. An intense 1929 downpour of rain scoured a Colorado hillside to reveal deposits of gold. In 1949, after a storm-related heat burst along the coast of Portugal, thermometers recorded an air temperature of 158 degrees. A 1970 tornado pushed and rolled an 18-ton liquid-fertilizer tank for more than half a mile. Mayhem and misery are part and parcel of such storms, but for sheer madness, it is hard to top the hordes of snapping turtles and alligators a hurricane visited upon the city of Mobile, Ala., in 1819: "Sources suggest that fully half the two hundred casualties were the result of alligator and turtle bites." With consummate professionalism, Cerveny deciphers these events to the best of his knowledge and steers clear of demonizing nature, a forcethat he appreciates can both create and destroy. An entertaining survey of highly unusual happenings that situate humans rather low on nature's food chain.
A contributing editor of the popular national weather magazine Weatherwise, Dr. Cerveny is a professor who specializes in weather and climate at Arizona State University, where he is one of four professors out of a faculty of 1,700 honored with the title of “President’s Professor.” He has studied weather on all seven of the world’s continents. His research has ranged from studying the weather associated with prison escapes to computing the weather of the next 10,000 years (used in the design of the nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain). For his research demonstrating that it rains more on weekends than on weekdays, the BBC, CNN, ABC News, NPR and others interviewed him, and he has appeared live on the NBC “Today” show and on the CBS “Morning Show.”
His research has been discussed in such diverse publications as People, USA Today, National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated, and in numerous newspapers around the country, as well as in a recent documentary by the BBC. He is the author of over ninety technical articles on weather and climate in journals such as Science and Nature.