THE SCARIEST PLACE ON EARTH: Eye to Eye with Hurricanes by David E. Fisher

THE SCARIEST PLACE ON EARTH: Eye to Eye with Hurricanes

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A terrific popular history of hurricanes by cosmochemist and novelist Fisher (Marine Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Miami; The Wrong Man, 1993). Fisher's chatty digressions and personal recollections of Hurricane Andrew, which swept through south Florida in August 1992, lend the book an informality that makes the hard science breezily accessible. While Fisher may overstate the case by calling Andrew ""the greatest disaster ever to hit the United States,"" there's no denying the massive destruction left by the category 5 hurricane as it swept from Ft. Lauderdale to the Florida Keys on into Louisiana. An effective warning system, he notes, and scientific know-how in predicting Andrew's course saved countless lives. He recounts other more deadly hurricanes, such as the one that hit Galveston, Tex., in 1900 and killed 9,000. The Great Hurricane of 1780 tore through Barbados, St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda, killing as many as 19,000 people. More recent events recalled here include Adm. Bull Halsey's disastrous 1944 confrontation with a typhoon (as hurricanes are called in the Pacific) just east of the Philippines: Scientific data being what it then was, Halsey tried to outrun the storm and mistakenly turned right into it, losing 800 men, several destroyers, and 186 planes. Fisher's scientific explanations -- e.g., why hurricanes turn counterclockwise; the molecular reaction of heat on air; the laws of angular momentum -- are clear if not concise. Especially interesting is his history of the study of hurricanes, going back as far as the 13th century. Fisher profiles scientists, researchers, and others such as Col. Joseph P. Duckworth, who, in July 1943, was the first to fly an airplane into the eye of a hurricane. Zesty popular science, with a nice blend of historical lore and personal observation.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random