Book Review--November, 2006
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The book review for the month of November, 2006 is one that is a bit behind schedule, but still got out before the end of the month, and discusses the long turbulent history of tropical storms and hurricanes in North Carolina. Jay Barnes, the directory of the North Carolina Aquarium, and writer of another hurricane book, Florida's Hurricane History, describes the relationship between North Carolinians and these tropical tempests from pre-colonial days to today in his book, North Carolina's Hurricane History. As you will see, I enjoyed this book a great deal, and strongly believe that you will too once you purchase and read it.



Windswept

Despite some delay, I managed to find the time to sit down and read a great book by Jay Barnes called North Carolina's Hurricane History. Barnes, who serves as director for the North Carolina Aquarium in Atlantic Beach, has also written a similar book on Florida's Hurricane History, which is comparable to a book I reviewed for this web site several years ago, Florida Hurricanes and Tropical Storms, 1871 and 2001 by John M. Williams.

The copy of the North Carolina Hurricane History book that I have is the third edition, which is dated 2001. Earlier editions were published in 1995 and 1998. The edition that I possess contains a wealth of information compiled by Barnes on many of the hurricanes that affected the Tar Heel state in the 1990s such as Emily (1993), Fran (1996), Bonnie (1998), Dennis (1999), and Floyd (1999). Barnes' book goes into great detail on these recent storms from their birth to long after their demise.

He accounts the painful process, both personal and economic, that occurred during recovery and rebuilding phases following the impacts of both Fran and Floyd, which went down as the two most devastating storms to hit North Carolina since records began being taken in 1851. However, Barnes also pays homage past monster storms such as Hurricane Hazel from October 1954, which many throughout the Tar Heel state from the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Charlotte as well as coastal residents in Wilmington, Cape Fear, and Cape Hatteras still hold in high regard.

Hazel, a powerful latter season Category Four Hurricane, set the standard for future Carolina hurricanes as it roared across the eastern third of the United States, and into Canada before fading away. These three storms (Hazel, Fran, and Floyd) along with Hurricane Hugo, which caused a great deal of destruction in inland portions of North Carolina after walloping Charleston, South Carolina in September, 1989, are described by Barnes not only in terms of their meteorological prowess, but also through newspaper articles, photos, and the anecdotal evidence gathered from survivors, who experienced these deadly and devastating storms first hand.

The story on Hurricane Floyd that Barnes weaves encompasses some forty pages alone. It is a compelling narrative that could be used as the foundation for a book about the historic hurricane that impacted much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast during the middle of September, 1999. For those like myself, who live in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area, Floyd was a memorable tropical storm that brought torrential rains and flooding to communities such as Bound Brook, Manville, Middlesex, and Lodi. As a matter of fact, It even deluged my hometown with 11.67 inches of rain, which is the most rainfall that I've ever recorded at my weather station since its inception in 1998.

However, the storm was much worse in North Carolina, which had been already besieged by heavy rains from Tropical Storm Dennis some ten days earlier. Although Floyd mercifully weakened prior to coming ashore, it agitated the already saturated and soggy ground throughout the state, and produced what eventually was determined to be a 200 year flood event. The toll from the sixth storm of the 1999 season in North Carolina was 52 dead, and approximately $6 billion in damage. It was the deadliest hurricane on record in North Carolina in almost 120 years.

By reading Barnes account of Floyd's rampage through the Tar Heel state, I learned a lot more, and gained a much greater appreciation for what this particular tropical tempest did. Over the years, all of you have probably seen some of the many articles I have written and posted to the web site on storms including Bertha, Fran, and Floyd, but none of them come close to having the breadth and depth of detail which Barnes deploys in his narratives on these memorable storms.

The reader is left with a true sense of all the aspects of life that can be affected by these freaks of nature, and how people can be left overwhelmed and powerless in their wake. The book also deals with some of the earliest storms in North Carolina's history going as far back as pre-Colonial days. While records prior to 1851 were scarce, there were still a number of accounts mentioned in the book including one that explorer Verrazano, which a famous New York City area bridge is named after, encountered, and gave him the inspiration to declare a section of Carolina coast as Cape Fear, a moniker that has gone on to claim fame in the movies of the same name from 1962 and 1991.

Following a similar pattern set in other recently reviewed books such as Great Storms of the Jersey Shore, Hurricane Watch, and Divine Wind, Barnes sets aside appendices that are chock full of great information for weather and hurricane buffs. Although this book's primary focus is on tropical storms and hurricanes, there is still a brief section toward the end on Nor'easters, which are commonplace during the fall and winter months along the Carolina coast. Tremendous mid-latitude cyclones such as Superstorm '93 and the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 have pummeled places such as Cape Hatteras along the Outer Banks.

You'll occasionally hear the term Hatteras low, which is given to an extratropical storm system that reforms and energizes off of Cape Hatteras. These storms are often fueled by the relatively warm waters of the Gulf Stream, the largest warm water current in the world. Similar to what McQuaid and Schleifstein write at the end of their book, Path of Destruction, which was reviewed earlier in 2006, Barnes spends a chapter on what could be in store when the next major hurricane threatens North Carolina as well as how hurricanes and tropical storms are becoming a more significant problem further inland than along coastal areas due to overzealous development and increased population that has put a significant burden on floodplains away from the shore.

One of the finest segments of North Carolina's Hurricane History is the very last chapter that discusses Hurricane Safety. Barnes goes into much greater detail on how to be thoroughly prepared and safe in the event of a hurricane affecting your area. It is one of the most elaborate set of Hurricane Safety Tips that I've ever read. Not only does it deal with the basics on how to prepare prior to hurricane season, when a storm approaches, comes ashore, and moves inland, but it also instructs how to obtain critical information regarding the floodplain in your area, essential documentation to provide the insurance company, and what nearby shelters to go to when it's time to evacuate.

North Carolina's Hurricane History gives you the best bang for your buck when it comes to hurricane books. Between the elaborate descriptions of monster storms from both early and modern times to discussions on the next big storm to the topics of winter storms and hurricane preparedness, this work by Barnes covers it all. I strongly urge all of you who do not have this book already to purchase it when you have the chance. Regardless if you're a resident of North Carolina, or not, you will find this book very fascinating.

Windswept

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