As I write the reviews for these two books, Hurricane Floyd has just finished worrying Florida residents along the Atlantic Coast and has moved inland over North Carolina. Floyd at one time briefly reached Category 5 status and hit the coast as a Category 4 storm. Fortunately most of the high-speed, destructive winds remained offshore, but heavy rains have fallen now for many hours, and flooding is widespread.
As this storm slides up the western Atlantic shore, the events of the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Hugo of 1989 and Hurricane Andrew of 1992 are fresh in my mind. The events of these recent, famous storms and others to strike the States of Florida and North Carolina are the subjects of two recent books by Jay Barnes: Florida's Hurricane History and North Carolina's Hurricane History, which I have had the pleasure to read and review.
Each volume is a fairly complete history of all hurricanes known to have significant impacts on the States of Florida and North Carolina since the European exploration and settlement of North America began in the 1500s. Because these two books are so similar in scope and style, I am reviewing them together.
Both books have common introductory materials ("Birth of a Hurricane," "Hurricane Effects" and "Tracking the Storms") which briefly describe what hurricanes are, how they form, how they are tracked and their movements forecast, and what impacts they may have on the human communities they affect. The final chapters of each book look at what the future may hold for hurricane strikes upon these states given forecast population increases and urban development.
Sandwiched between those chapters, Barnes provides historical summaries of every known hurricane to significantly impact North Carolina and Florida. The summaries are divided into periods: the "Early Years" of exploration and settlement, the Nineteen Century and the Twentieth Century to the late 1990s. As would be expected, the more recent storms are more fully documented and illustrated with photographs of the storm impacts. The accounts are drawn from government agency reports, local media and eyewitness accounts of those present. The information provides not only details on each storm's strength and path across the state but also its impacts on the region's residents. The books are loaded with meteorological facts, figures, and storm track maps that allow some comparison of the many hurricanes that have affected the two State in their history.
The pages of these books ring with names familiar to all with an interest in hurricanes. The accounts may also rekindle frightening memories of those who have lived through the raging wind and surf and torrential rains of hurricanes such as Agnes, Andrew, Donna, Fran, Gloria and Hugo to name but a few.
Jay Barnes has given us a well documented history of hurricane impacts on both North Carolina and Florida, but he has not ignored totally other areas devastated by some of these storms as they passed through. His accounts include many fascinating and tragic stories and anecdotes gleaned from newspaper and other media reports and personal recollections.
He has, at times, also included humorous aspects of a storm's effects arising amid the tragedy. One I found particularly delightful occurred in Swan Quarter, North Carolina in 1876. The local Methodist congregation had wanted to build their new church on a particular property, but the owner had no interest in selling the land. They eventually built the church on another piece of property on the edge of town. They dedicated the building on September 14, the same day a hurricane was passing Cuba on its way to the Carolina shore. It hit on the 17th; the high waters flooded the community under five feet of water. The storm surge lifted the small church off its foundations and floated it further inland. It was finally deposited, to the congregation's astonishment, on the piece of property where they had originally intended to build. The event impressed land owner Sam Sadler greatly. He eventually donated the land to the Methodist church. Today, a historical marker reminds visitor's that the church was "Moved by the Hand of God."
I do find the books' lack of adequate location maps disconcerting however -- an all too common fault with many regional weather history volumes. North Carolina's Hurricane History has but one map giving local place names, and it is found in the appendix in relation to the State's current evacuation routes. There is an adequate map of Florida in Florida's Hurricane History as well as one detailing the Florida Keys although this one is hidden in the latter part of the book. Both books would also have benefited from a regional map, particularly the Florida history since it often discusses storm movement and damage for specific islands in the Caribbean such as the Bahamas Group.
[If I were designing such a book, I would include several relevant maps indicating all places named in the text and locate the maps conveniently at the end of the book, preferably on fold-out pages.]
Overall, both North Carolina's Hurricane History and Florida's Hurricane History are very appealing books, a pleasure to read and use as a reference to the storm history of these two States. (I hope similar volumes are in the works for other areas of the US.) They will appeal to a wide audience: weather historians, local residents, emergency preparedness officials, hurricane and natural disaster aficionados, historians and the media.
Florida's Hurricane History by Jay Barnes, University of North Carolina Press, 1998, ISBN: 0807847488
North Carolina's Hurricane History by Jay Barnes, University of North Carolina Press, 2001, ISBN: 0807849693Order Florida's Hurricane History and
Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, ACM
THE WEATHER DOCTOR
September 15, 1999
For Other Great Weather Books, Visit The Weather Doctor Bookstore