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 author James Lincoln Turner tells us in the new book Seven Superstorms of the Northeast, when dealing with Mother Nature there is nothing we can count out as impossible.
Seven Superstorms of the Northeast takes readers on a genuine wild ride through some of the regions historically most destructive storms. The books 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 the kind of 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 mans face, hurricanes so powerful they swept tidal waves onto Main Streets. A climatological Cooperstown, this book is the Hall of Fame of Northeast weather.
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 authors 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.
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.
One of the charms of this book is that it is sprinkled with traditional aphorisms. One of these expressions (which has questionable attribution as Turner points out) states that, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." 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 wasnt exactly a priority at the moment (as one intrepid ice-delivery man discovered during a blizzard). Even in the darkness of calamity there are many wonderfully ironic tales which honor humanitys ability to find humor in even the most hazardous situation.
The book is soundly based on reports found in actual newspaper stories and historical archives, but, as Turner admits, a few 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 storms 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.