Hurricane Watch

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The ultimate guide to the ultimate storms, Hurricane Watch is a fascinating blend of science and history from one of the world's foremost meteorologists and an award-winning science journalist. This in-depth look at these awe-inspiring acts of nature covers everything from the earliest efforts by seafarers at predicting storms to the way satellite imaging is revolutionizing hurricane forecasting. It reveals the latest information on hurricanes: their effects on ocean waves, the causes of the variable wind speeds ...
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Hurricane Watch

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The ultimate guide to the ultimate storms, Hurricane Watch is a fascinating blend of science and history from one of the world's foremost meteorologists and an award-winning science journalist. This in-depth look at these awe-inspiring acts of nature covers everything from the earliest efforts by seafarers at predicting storms to the way satellite imaging is revolutionizing hurricane forecasting. It reveals the latest information on hurricanes: their effects on ocean waves, the causes of the variable wind speeds in different parts of the storm, and the origins of the super-cooled shafts of water that vent at high altitudes. Hurricane Watch is a compelling history of man's relationship with the deadliest storms on earth.


- The story of the nineteenth-century Cuban Jesuit whose success at predicting the great cyclones was considered almost mystical.

- A new look at Isaac Cline, whose infamous failure to predict the Galveston Hurricane left him obsessed with the devastating effects of storm surge.

- The story of the Hurricane Hunters, including the first man ever to deliberately fly into a hurricane.

- A complete account of how computer modeling has changed hurricane tracking.

- A history of Project Stormfury: the only significant, organized effort to reduce the damaging strength of severe hurricanes.

- A unique firsthand account of Hurricane Andrew by both authors, who were at the National Hurricane Center when Andrew struck.

- A listing of the deadliest storms in history.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Billed as the ultimate guide to the ultimate storm, Hurricane Watch explores the history and science of hurricanes with admirable verve.
Disturbances in the Ethiopian Highlands of East Africa can prove troublesome to Florida property owners. As an easterly breeze flows around and over those mountains, vortices are created that drift west, pick up some moisture from the Gulf of Guinea, drop some pressure over the Cape Verde Islands, continue over the Atlantic and if everything goes just right, tromp into the Caribbean as the monsters called hurricanes. One of these brutes could supply the electri-cal needs of the U.S. for six months, as Dr. Bob Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center, and Jack Wil-liams, from USA Today, note in this tribute to the savage beauty of weather. Interestingly, giving the storms names, like Audrey and Gloria, has made them easier to keep track of, and less dangerous as a result. And while our attempts to tame them with silver iodide ("seeding" the clouds) flown in by men with the right stuff in the '50s actually seemed to work, as an expensive hobby, weather control makes missile defense look cheap and easy. From Christopher Colum-bus's first hurricane forecast in 1502 to Isaac Cline's failure to do so in Galveston in 1900 to remodeling Dade County with Hurricane Andrew's 170-mile-an-hour winds, this is a fine, detailed and intriguing tour of the history of meteorology.
—Stephen Morrow
Publishers Weekly
The powerful winds of the famous Galveston hurricane of 1900 drove mountains of surging water inland with little warning, and met with little understanding. Hurricanes are no different today, but thanks to advances in meteorology conceived by people like Sheets, the former director of the National Hurricane Center and the wide dissemination of information by news media particularly journalists like USA Today weather page founder Williams the United States public is much better prepared than in the past. While thousands died amid massive destruction at the turn of the century, monstrous Andrew destroyed billions of dollars in property in 1992, but took few lives. Sheets and Williams deliver an accessible history of how meteorologists have learned to understand and predict the course of these fearsome atmospheric giants. Except for a basic blunder in the description of satellite orbital mechanics, in which the authors describe a fictitious centrifugal force instead of inertia, the technical writing is clear and accurate. Complementing the discussion of science and technology are stories of human tragedy and triumph and of the risks that still lurk along our coastlines. Readers will easily and eagerly follow the authors' step-by-step look at advances in both meteorology and emergency response from the first known successful hurricane prediction in the 16th century on Columbus's fourth voyage to the New World through advances in instrumentation, satellite imagery, aircraft reconnaissance and computer modeling in the 20th century to the unresolved problems and the uncertainties of changing climate in the 21st. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
On the face of it, a history of the U.S. Weather Bureau and its success in forecasting the path of tropical storms might seem to be a dubious proposition. Author Bob Sheets, however, was head of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, and spent nearly 40 years studying the immense storms that frequently roll into the southern coastline. Indeed, collecting hurricane lore seems to have been something of a hobby with him as well. This well-told popular history of "hurricane-ology" is one of those books that is comfortable to read and full of the kind of information that stays with the reader. The author wisely teamed up with Jack Williams, a writer and founder of USA Today's weather page. Besides the meteorology of tropical storms, their structure and dynamics, the book portrays some of the great storm predictors of the past in fascinating detail. A section on the famed Hurricane Hunters—the airmen who routinely fly into the heart of active storms to gather invaluable data—is especially useful to those who wonder just how they are able to do it and survive. Particularly interesting is a chapter on the immense Galveston Hurricane of 1900 that killed 6,000 people and was easily the worst storm ever to strike the United States. This was the cyclone that Eric Larson described in great detail in his recently published book, Isaac's Storm. Recommended for high school and public libraries. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Random House, Vintage, 331p. illus. index., $15.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Raymond L. Puffer; Ph.D., Historian, Edwards Air Force Base, CA , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
Library Journal
Sheets and Williams, on the other hand, are experts in their fields. Sheets is a former director of the National Hurricane Center and a noted authority on hurricanes. Williams is the founder of the USA Today weather page and author of The Weather Book. Their book is both a comprehensive history of U.S. hurricane forecasting and a clear explanation of the science of hurricanes. Anyone who lives in hurricane-prone areas or is interested in hurricanes or science history will appreciate this clearly written work. Lay readers will grasp how hurricanes form, strengthen, and travel, and experts will take much from Sheets's personal accounts of Hurricane Andrew, the history of hurricane hunter aircraft in forecasting, and the explanation of how technological advances have greatly improved the science of hurricane forecasting. Storms will continue to strike, but the authors show that we are much better prepared. Highly recommended for all libraries, especially those in hurricane-prone areas. Jeffrey Beall, Univ. of Colorado Lib., Denver Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A thoroughly satisfying, chronological investigation of the history and science of hurricanes. Early chapters set the stage with a discussion of 15th-18th-century understandings of atmospheric phenomena, from which point the authors coach readers through 19th- and 20th-century advances in knowledge and technology. They employ vivid accounts of monumental storms and of the people who pioneered groundbreaking techniques to improve the process of forecasting in the interest of saving lives. With its dozen appendixes of facts on deadliest storms, as well as a glossary and valuable index, the book is structured in a way that would accommodate quick research by students. However, its greater value lies in a reading of the entirety as a fascinating exploration of the complex weather patterns that induce hurricanes and of the dedication of those who track them. This volume would be equally viable for its science or its career perspectives.-Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A cracking popular natural and social history of the hurricane from former Director of the National Hurricane Center Sheets and Williams, the man who created the chromatic weather page for USA Today. From a distance, hurricanes are incredibly exciting phenomena, and through their muscular, edgy writing style, Sheets and Williams are well suited to bringing these storms to life on the page. They work chronologically, starting with Christopher Columbus, who knew what a long ocean swell and high cirrus cards portended as he noodled about the Caribbean, providing a history of the first recorded storms (is it any wonder that Benjamin Franklin was found in the vicinity?) and following important meteorological breakthroughs. Although the authors try to keep technical information to digestible bites, they do paint a very clear portrait of the mechanics of the atmospheric heat pumps that generate winds and drive thunderstorms and hurricanes; only occasionally do they sprinkle such terms as "intertropical convergence zone" or "millibars." As the 20th century appears, the material becomes more detailed. Wooly stories such as the one of Joseph Duckworth's crazy first flight directly into a hurricane are thrilling, but Sheets and Williams give readers a chance to catch their breath during an overview of the strides being made in hurricane prediction through dynamic computer modeling and satellite tracking. Storms from the one that beat Galveston in 1900-and led to the revamping of the US Weather Bureau-right up to Hurricane Andrew of 1992 are thoroughly dissected, though within a narrative framework. Andrew in particular is given an extended, real-time biography, by turns exhilarating andterrifying, with plenty of hellacious anecdotes from survivors. They are wild and uncontrollable, these hurricanes, and we are lucky to have them, Sheets and Williams suggest, to awe and humble us. (26 illustrations)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375703904
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/2001
  • Series: Vintage Original Series
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 740,644
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Bob Sheets grew up on a small farm near Fairmount, Indiana, and attended Ball State Teachers College (now University). Upon graduation in 1961, he was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force and was sent to the University of Oklahoma to study meteorology. After finishing his Air Force tour of duty, he joined the National Hurricane Research Laboratory (NHRL), co-located with the National Hurricane Center (NHC), where he studied hurricanes, directing field operations and making more than 200 flights through the eyes of hurricanes. In 1980, after more than 16 years at NHRL, he moved into the National Hurricane Center, serving as a Hurricane Specialist, Deputy Director and finally, its Director from 1987 to 1995.

Since leaving the NHC after 33 years of government service, he has been a meteorological consultant where he provides on camera services for the Florida News Network and affiliates and the ABC network. Non-television work includes lectures and workshops on hurricane threats and preparedness, and serving on advisory boards at Florida International University and the University of Oklahoma. In addition, he has and continues to provide technical guidance for films and books concerning meteorology, with specializations in hurricanes, and was featured in the IMAX film entitled STORMCHASERS.

He received his B.S. degree in Mathematics/Physics from Ball State (1961) and his M.S. (1965) and Ph.D. (1972) degrees in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Sheets has authored dozens of published articles on hurricanes. He also has frequently been an invited lecturer at numerous Universities and other forums around the world.

His major honors include being an elected Fellow of the American Meteorological Society; the recipient of the U.S. Navy Distinguished Public Service Award; the U.S. Air Force Master Meteorologist Award; Life Time Achievement Awards from the National Hurricane Conference and the South Florida Hurricane Conference; the Governor's Award from the Florida Governor's Hurricane Conference; an EMMY award from the National Academy of Television Arts Society; Executive Excellence Award and Presidential Rank Award of the U.S. Senior Executive Service; citations from the governors of Maryland and Georgia; the ABC Person of the Week; the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold and Silver medals.

Jack Williams was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school. After his military service, he attended Jacksonville (Fla.) University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and government in 1962.

He began his journalism career at the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville while attending college, and subsequently worked at the Jacksonville Journal, the Rochester Times Union, and Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle. In September 1982, when USA Today began publication, Jack Williams served as the weather page editor.

In 1992, as Hurricane Andrew battered Dade County, Jack Williams was in the National Hurricane Center, which was on the fringe of the strongest winds. He has flown into three hurricanes, and has chased tornadoes with researchers on the Plains. In January 1999 Williams was one of the half dozen journalists selected that year by the National Science Foundation to report on research in Antarctica.

He is also the author of THE USA TODAY WEATHER BOOK, which won The American Meteorological Society’s Louis J. Battan Author’s Award, and THE USA TODAY WEATHER ALMANAC.

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Read an Excerpt

In the Whispering Pines neighborhood about twenty miles southwest of downtown Miami, Tom Ochmanski and his wife, Laurie, have put their one-year old son, Ryan, and two-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, to bed early in the evening. Whispering Pines is not in an evacuation zone and the Ochmanski house is a strong one--they think. Around midnight, Tom and Laurie and Laurie's mother, Lee Bolander, finally try to get some rest, but the howling winds wake them two hours later. As the adults sit in the living room, watching reports on their battery-operated television set, squalls of heavy rain and high winds became stronger and more and more frequent. By 4:45 a.m., winds are probably gusting to over 150 or 160 mph, and debris slamming into the house creates an almost deafening roar. Above this roar, parents and grandmother hear breaking glass in Ryan's bedroom. Tom rushes in to find the window shattered by flying debris and scattered around the room, but, remarkably, Ryan is not cut or hurt. Tom grabs him and Laurie gets Caitlyn from her bedroom and the entire family huddles in the living room, close to the hallway entrance. They hear the other windows breaking on the north end of the house. As Hurricane Andrew's eye wall moves directly over them, the screaming wind becomes even more terrifying. The Ochmanskis know when the wind shifts direction because the loud thumps of striking debris now come from the east side of the house.

Tom shines a large flashlight at the top of the front wall and sees it pulling away from the ceiling. This is a reinforced concrete tie beam connecting the walls to the roof, and these winds are doing their best to lift it right off the house. The family moves closer to the hallway door and starts praying. Suddenly and with a tremendous crash the entire front of their house slams inward, while the front half of the roof is ripped away. A large blunt object strikes Tom in the back, knocking him across the room. Laurie quickly crawls through the debris to the hallway, taking the two terrified children with her. She places Ryan and Caitlyn on shelves in the linen closet off the hall? way and crouches in the open doorway to protect them with her own body.

Where is Tom now? Where is her mother? Are they alive or dead? Laurie has only her fears and her prayers.

• * *

Great tropical cyclones are the largest and most destructive storms on the face of this planet; collective memory never forgets the passage of a powerful deadly storm such as Hurricane Andrew in South Florida in 1992. In the past, these typhoons and hurricanes struck without warning. Today, this never happens. We can forecast the great storms with increasing, often remarkable, accuracy. We can save lives and property--some lives, some property. However, we will never be able to stop these storms. The residents of shorelines of the world exposed to storms from the tropics, and the tourists who flock to these sandy paradises will always prick their ears when they hear the words, "A hurricane watch has been posted for. . ."

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Table of Contents

Preface xiii
Chapter 1 Early History and Science 3
Chapter 2 Nineteenth Century 31
Chapter 3 Early 1900s 61
Chapter 4 Flying Reconnaissance 96
Chapter 5 The 1950s 125
Chapter 6 The 1960s 142
Chapter 7 Controlling Storms 157
Chapter 8 The 1970s and '80s 179
Chapter 9 Computer Modeling 203
Chapter 10 Hurricane Andrew 222
Chapter 11 The Future 265
A. Tropical Cyclone Terminology and Seasons 285
B. Atlantic Basin Hurricane Names 287
C. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Potential Damage Scale 290
D. Hurricane Probabilities 292
E. The Strongest Hurricanes to Hit the U.S. Gulf and East Coasts 1900-2000 295
F. Billion-Dollar Hurricanes 297
G. The Deadliest U.S. Hurricanes 1900-2000 299
H. The Deadliest Hurricanes since 1492 301
I. Damage Cost Compared to Death Rate, 1900-1999 303
J. What Past Hurricanes Would Cost Today 304
K. Forecasting Computer Models Used by the National Hurricane Center 305
L. Preparing for Hurricanes 309
Glossary 313
Index 321
Illustration Credits 333
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2002

    All You Need to Know About Hurricanes

    This book chronicles the historical development of scientific knowledge concerning the nature and behavior of hurricanes and the parallel advances made in forecasting and prediction. I was pleased but not surprised to see Ben Franklin credited with the discovery that big storms, such as hurricanes, do not necessarily move in the same direction that the winds are blowing. Franklin was also among the first to chart the Gulf Stream and to understand the relationship between brilliantly-colored sunsets and major volcanic eruptions. The book presents a chronology of hurricanes in the Americas replete with detailed observations about the storms including some that had significant historical outcomes. The painstakingly slow growth in knowledge of hurricanes accelerated greatly in the days after WWI, a pattern that continues to this day. Aircraft equipped to measure atmospheric pressures and wind speeds, radar, satellite technology, fast computers, and courageous pilots have contributed dramatically to understanding hurricanes and to forecasting their paths, arrival times, and wind speeds. The authors should have avoided using relative humidity as a synonym for water vapor. Water vapor, not relative humidity, condenses to rain, and condensation of water vapor is known to be the major internal energy source for these big storms. Andrew, 1992, was very important to the modern study of hurricanes. It forced a thorough reevaluation of hurricane preparedness, hurricane resistant building practices, and of how ground level wind speeds are predicted from measured upper altitude winds speeds. Once a building is breaking apart, all sorts of solid objects become airborne missiles that can inflict additional damage on impact and set additional flying projectiles into motion. Interior water damage and catastrophic structural failures of walls and roof are significantly reduced or eliminated by impact resistant shutters that protect against windows breaking. Given our knowledge of hurricane behavior and forecasting skills, the tragic outcomes inflicted by the Galveston storm of 1900 and Camille should not be repeated. Sophisticated technological skills are the good news. The bad news is that coastal development has placed many more people in the hurricane danger zone and raised the ante on potential property damages. In spite of impressive forecasting abilities, property damage tolls continue to rise. The book should appeal to anyone with a basic curiosity about hurricanes and should be of special interest to coastal planners, officials, and policy makers with responsibility for the safety and well being of the public.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2014

    Chapter 14: Where is Ezumalid?

    Wenalt's heart beated as fast as he could. He looked in the guide's tent, but he wasn't there until suddenly, someone put a hand to his mouth. Wenalt kicked the person who grabbed him, put him on a horse, and rode away, but it seemed like the person resisted his every kick. Wenalt was blindfolded...THE END! SORRY BUT THAT'S ALL I CAN DO FOR THIS STORY! I HAVE TO START TYPING AND DON'T WANNA GIVE IDEAS AND SPOIL THE STORY! I'M GOING TO CHANGE THINGS AND NOT GIVE AWAY EVERY WORD. LOOK FOR EZUMALID AND THE THREE SERMINS ON DECEMBER 13, 2015: GUESSED BECAUSE I REALLY WANT TO FINISH THE BOOK ON OCTOBER 17, 2014! IT MAY BE POSSIBLE BUT THE AMOUNT OF PAGES IS 375. I DID A GUESS LATER AFTER THAT BECAUSE OF PUBLISHING AND EDITING. IT MAY TAKE MORE. SOME STORIES TAKE MORE TIME THAN OTHERS. I BELIEVE THIS STORY IS A 2 1/2 YEAR LONG WORTH TYPING STORY?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2011

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    Posted July 31, 2009

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