Bryan Norcross's Hurricane Almanac: a book review
Bryan Norcross, Hurricane Analyst for CBS's national news and Director of Meteorology for WFOR-TV in Miami, has just written his second annual Hurricane Almanac: The Essential Guide to Storms Past, Present, and Future. Bryan is famous for his marathon on-air performance during Hurricane Andrew of 1992, when he talked people through the storm as their homes came apart around them. His book is a great addition to the bookshelf of anyone living in Hurricane Alley. Like any almanac, it has information on a variety of topics, and is not meant to be read straight through. My favorite part was his 5-page description of his Hurricane Andrew experience--and the lessons we should have learned from it, but didn't. Some other highlights:
Ready, Set, Hurricane!
The book's greatest strength is the impressive 134-page section that provides checklists and practical information on how to prepare, ride out, evacuate, and recover from a hurricane. There are so many things to think of that having them available in a handy book one can pick up anytime makes Hurricane Almanac a great book to have. When preparing for a hurricane, you'll find tips on what storm shutters and generator to buy, what to do with your pet, computer, boat, pool and car, and how to make a Family Hurricane Plan. Bryan also boosts a web which I also like, onestorm.org. This is a free hurricane preparedness web site that helps you put together a family hurricane plan.
I like how the book emphasizes the most important things it wants you to know. In the case of the Ready, Set, Hurricane! section, Bryan emphasizes this:
IF YOU DON'T DO ANYTHING ELSE, DO THIS!
-Contact a friend or relative out of town and ask him or her to be your family's emergency contact.
-Before the storm, be sure that every member of the family has a piece of paper on them that says, for example:
AUNT MILLY IN NJ
-Call Aunt Milly before the wind starts blowing to tell her exactly where you are and what you are planning to do.
-Be sure everybody knows that they should call Aunt Milly if they get lost or anything bad happens.
It's important that your main contact person is out of town, because local calls are more likely to be disrupted after a storm. Both ends of local connections are subject to problems.
Another interesting fact I learned from Hurricane Almanac: You can send an email message to any cell phone able to receive text messages by emailing to XXX-XXX-XXXX@teleflip.com (replace the X's with the phone number of the person's cell phone). The message will be forwarded to any cell phone provider in the U.S.
Hurricane Almanac also details what to do after the storm--how to deal with FEMA and your insurance company, save water-damaged possessions, and purify your drinking water. Additional chapters include an excellent summary of all the various National Hurricane Center advisories and how to interpret them, the basics of hurricane science, and a summary of some of the famous storms in the past. The opening chapter includes a very passionate critique of our emergency management system, building codes, and the politicians who fail to adequately protect us against hurricanes. A sample quote:
That President Bush, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, and the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, General Carl Strock were completely misinformed and saying ridiculous things for days and weeks after the Katrina disaster is frightening. These people know when a pin drops in Afghanistan. How can they not know when a levee breaks in New Orleans? The evidence says that the communications and operational infrastructure of the federal government broke down. We should all be very concerned.
Hurricane Almanac (335 pages, softcover) is $10.39 from amazon.com. It's not fancy--all the photos and figures are black and white (if you want a coffee table hurricane book with beautiful color photos and figures, get Dr. Kerry Emanuel's Divine Wind. An added bonus for Hurricane Almanac is a companion web site, hurricanealmanac.com. The web site is not fancy, but does have some useful links and a page that allows you to send Byran emails with suggestions and/or fixes for the 2008 version of his book.
The book also has a provocative chapter titled, "How I'd do it better," that I'll comment on in a future blog.