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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Warnings – A Book Review

A horrific train wreck caused by the washout of the rails averted by skilled and accurate weather forecasting. Mike Smith begins his book “Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather” describing what he calls a phantom accident. This is an accident that never occurred. Did Mike just dream this up? No the situation actually took place. The roadbed was washed out. The catastrophe was avoided through the diligent forecasting by Mike and his colleagues who were able to issue a warning well in advance of pending danger.

Mike Smith is a meteorologist who has been observant of the weather since childhood. His book intricately weaves the development of meteorological technology with his professional biography describing the developments and advancements in both. Mike describes how the civilian Weather Service grew from an organization that would not provide a warning for fear of causing panic to one that provides accurate information data and warnings and near real-time data to the general public resulting in an untold number of lives saved.

“Warnings” focuses on how developments in radar technology and forecasting methods grew to provide accurate information to the general public allowing us all to prepare by either taking shelter or evacuating. Mike describes how these developments helped the forecasting of severe weather and the formation of tornadoes. He then shows how this same technology is used in hurricane tracking, discussing how warnings were issued during Hurricane Gilbert and Hurricane Andrew. Mike then goes into detail of his experiences during Hurricane Katrina.

While reading “Warnings”, my frequent thought was that this was a book about heroes. Like firefighters who run into a burning building while the rest of us scatter, today’s meteorologists and storm chasers run to the storm to get the data that will bring the rest of us the information we need to be prepared for the storms that are approaching. Mike Smith is certainly in that category along with Major Fawbush and Captain Miller of the Air Force (1948). I would also add the many men and women who provide us the weather information we take for granted every day.

“Warnings” is an excellent read that I recommend for anyone who has an interest in weather systems or is affected by them.



Warnings can be purchase from Amazon.com via the link on Mike Smith Enterprises blog.

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