Seven Superstorms of the Northeast: And Other Blizzards, Hurricanes, and Tempests

Seven Superstorms of the Northeast: And Other Blizzards, Hurricanes, and Tempests

by James Lincoln Turner

Seven Superstorms of the Northeast takes readers on a genuine wild ride through some of the region's historically most destructive storms - in a pre-Weather Channel, pre-satellite, pre-Doppler radar world.

The book's title stems from seven monster storms including the blizzards of 1888, 1899, and 1914, the Snow Cloudburst of 1947, the Great Appalachian


Seven Superstorms of the Northeast takes readers on a genuine wild ride through some of the region's historically most destructive storms - in a pre-Weather Channel, pre-satellite, pre-Doppler radar world.

The book's title stems from seven monster storms including the blizzards of 1888, 1899, and 1914, the Snow Cloudburst of 1947, the Great Appalachian southeaster of 1950, and the hurricanes of 1938 and 1944. Sprinkled around the jaw-dropping accounts of these superstorms are stories of lesser, but no less impressive, storms such as the two August hurricanes of 1893 and other storms of the winter of 1913-1914.

These days, a storm receives a "super" prefix if news stations deem it worth colorful graphics and tense music in their coverage. There seem to have been more "superstorms" and "storms of the century" over the past two decades than there were during the two centuries prior. But Seven Superstorms may change that perception. This book offers historical perspective that sets the record straight. It reveals that a true superstorm meant enough wild weather to shut down entire regions of the country, blizzards so devastating they could disfigure a man's face, hurricanes so powerful they swept tidal waves onto Main Streets. A climatological Cooperstown, this book is the Hall of Fame of Northeast weather.

Although most of the accounts are from a time when meteorology was more of a guessing game than the forecasting industry it is today, there is still something familiar about the settings. The beaches and the boardwalks are still there and the familiar pubs, department stores, and cultural facilities of the big cities that can still lift spirits today. This leads us to the eye of this storm book - its humanity.  The human experience takes this book from being simply a chronicle of storm facts to a narrative about how people come together when confronted with natural crises.

When it came to man versus the storm, man put up a good fight, and it is amazing to read how long the daily grind held on before it collapsed under the clutches of the storms. People would be defiant in the face of danger. Some would emerge victorious. But some would end their epic struggle against forces beyond their control and they would perish, lost on the same streets they walked every day. Some would brave the harshest weather just to do their daily jobs - even if that job wasn't exactly a priority at the moment (as one intrepid ice-delivery man discovered during a blizzard). Even in the darkness of calamity there are wonderfully ironic tales which honor humanity's ability to find humor in even the most hazardous situation.

The book is soundly based on reports found in newspaper accounts and historical archives, but, as the author admits, a few period tales from within the tempests border on exaggeration. Yet these fierce weather fish stories only add to the pleasure of this book, and the author gives a detailed meteorological explanation of each storm's development. Anyone who enjoys man-versus-nature suspense - and the accompanying devastating results - will find these stories exhilarating.  This is a book where storms become legends.

There are certain aspects of life that connect all human beings. We love, we hate, we eat, we sleep, we breathe, we die - and we experience the weather. Occasionally, in ways both blessedly good and biblically tragic, we experience some of these existential things at the same time. From the joy of feeling the first warm rays of the spring sun to the terror of watching homes being destroyed by a hurricane - and in every condition in between - we all can appreciate the weather. And, sometimes, the weather can bring us together in a manner we would have never thought possible. Often, out of massive tragedy and destruction comes an outpouring of faith and a unity of purpose among man. But one thing is for sure, as we discover in Seven Superstorms of the Northeast, when dealing with Mother Nature there is nothing we can count out as impossible.

Author James Lincoln Turner is a man who loves storms. He loves them in the abstract way that a meteorologist appreciates the nuances of science; he loves them in the way a poet appreciates the beauty and the sensory experience of weather; and he loves them in the way that an adventurer feeds off of the adrenaline-charged fear they generate. The author's accounts will grip you as he describes the inception of the storm. You follow along as unsuspecting towns are overturned with little warning while the storm grows and casts its tumultuous hold on the masses. You find yourself holding your breath until the last gust of wind blows.

Editorial Reviews

Boaters Digest
Enjoy a wild ride through hurricanes and blizzards. Well illustrated with weather maps and an awesome selection of photos.
Midwest Book Review
Each of the seven superstorms profiled (plus two massive hurricanes in August 1893) are described in both meteorological and human terms. Vintage black-and-white photographs�add an extra immersive touch to this captivating true chronicle of the beauty, majesty, and ruthless appetite for destruction of nature's strongest storms, accessible to lay readers and weather science experts alike.
The Beachcomber
Extreme deviation in weather norms is barely conceivable by those who have not experienced the overwhelming and uncontrollable force of nature run amok. �Should give those readers some appreciation of what is not only possible, but which has happened and will happen again.
The New York Times
Even those terrified by the ferocity of a great storm may be able to enjoy it from an armchair in coffee-table format. James Lincoln Turner serves up details of spectacular blizzards and hurricanes.
The SandPaper
Replete with lucid eyewitness narratives. Turner's prose is magical, poetic. He balances the book neatly with science, literature, and first-hand narrative accounts.
The Times (Trenton NJ)
With meticulous detail, Turner's narrative builds like the gathering clouds that figure in so many of the storms. He tracks the storms for thousands of miles, but also concentrates on a few intrepid souls and their eventual demise or delivery.
Weatherwise Magazine
Powerful blizzards and savage hurricanes are meticulously recounted in this excellent text, which is filled with eyewitness stories and meteorological material�. Illustrations are of excellent quality and effectively convey the power, devastation, and beauty of the storms.

Product Details

Down The Shore Publishing
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

New York City, Blizzard of 1888:
Those who tried to reach home regretted it. The ever-increasing gale swept and hurled the snow everywhere.  As wires whistled and telephone and telegraph poles swayed ever more precariously, the wind whipped the crystals into a pedestrian's eyes where the snow would melt and then freeze so fast that the victim had to constantly struggle to protect his sight. Deflected from buildings and other objects, the wind seemed to blast from every point on the compass and spin and twirl and whirl in "snow devils" or "white tornadoes." If one turned his face, a gust from the opposite direction would catch and spin him around like a puppet. The wind would snatch the breath away as the snow clogged the nostrils and throat. Next, the snow would follow his breath into his lungs, nearly choking and suffocating him.
People appeared on streets wearing homemade devices resembling gas masks.
Some, caught out in what a New Haven newspaper described as "the bewildering, belligerent, blinding blitz," became hysterical, shouting, cursing the wind and pounding the snow tearfully. Others wandered, disoriented, into drifts and died quietly.

Storm surge, New England, '38 Hurricane:
The storm surge rolled on; at high tide it overwhelmed the shorelines of Rhode Island and Massachusetts as far east as the southwestern tip of Cape Cod.
At Block Island, although the waves spared most of the houses, which were built on much higher ground than on Long Island's south shore, they smashed to smithereens all the lobster pots and the entire fishing fleet.
Between Point Judith, on the east - where, at the entrance of Narragansett Bay, the tide rose over 17 feet above mean low tide - to Watch Hill on the Connecticut border, a great, green wave estimated by onlookers to be 60 to 70 feet high came rolling in from the ocean. It washed away miles of beaches and dunes; it scooped out new inlets and filled others, permanently transforming the coastline. The surge smashed hundreds of homes and other structures into driftwood - and then its backlash sucked entire settlements into the sea.
At Whale Rock, just off the shore of Watch Hill, it toppled the sturdy lighthouse, carrying the assistant keeper to his death in the depths. Reaching the mainland at Watch Hill, it split the yacht club in two, and  a piano came flying twenty feet into the air.

Storm surge, New Jersey coast, '44 Hurricane:
The blackness of the wild night was broken by the snow-white surf that swept in to explode in clouds of spray over the boardwalk as it scoured out gaping holes in Ocean Avenue. The distance between the troughs and crests of the larger waves was unreal. Imagine wading in normal surf, then shrinking to one-quarter your stature. Far, far out, the high-rolling combers would rise to foam-capped peaks of 30 to 40 feet, then break into proud smiles as they came roaring in toward you, swallowing up the smaller waves in immense fields of seething, smoking foam that would then merge with the rain flooded streets, turning them into torrents.
One of these waves uprooted a section of the boardwalk, lamppost and all, where the Coast Guardsman stood, and swept him two and a half blocks down Beacon Boulevard. Deciding to call it a day, he jumped off and sloshed another few blocks to his home.
Others were not so fortunate. Mrs. Marques, an elderly woman who lived in a house nestled between big sand dunes on Long Beach Island, refused to leave with the Coast Guardsmen who offered her shelter at their station in Holgate. ("I've been through many storms before, and I'm not worried about this one.") The next morning, where her home had been was nothing but a stretch of sand. The dunes, the house, and the woman had been swept from the face of the Earth.

Great Appalachian Storm of 1950:
... the storm was to many an exciting dream as they watched from the safety of windows and front porches. The few lingering red and yellow autumn leaves flew against the darkening wisps of the wind-ripped clouds, while the rain, "like sheets of glass," winged down the streets.
Some ventured out, joining neighbors and total strangers at street corners to watch and hear the wind blow in from the ocean in its mysterious way, first with great force down one street, and then as the mortals ducked for cover behind thick holly trees, down their street, each time bending the trees ever lower. Then trees a block or so away reared their darkly twisting forms to face the next, even higher gust.
Troubled souls were briefly released from their problems, their longings, their grief and their heartaches and, losing their inhibitions, talked, laughed, and swapped yarns with friends they had just met, or strangers they had seen, but never spoken to. Some people are rescued in a storm - others are rescued by one.

What People are saying about this

James Eberwine
An invaluable educational resource. The book itself is like a call to action. (James Eberwine, Marine and Hurricane Program Leader, NOAA, National Weather Service, Mt. Holly, NJ)

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