The strange and devastating life of Hurricane Sandy receives a fine, grim telling from Miles (English/Chatham Univ.; All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, The Legendary Irish Famine Ship, 2013, etc.).
Sandy was a freak storm, a shape-shifter that meteorologists just couldn’t quite put a finger on, and for that reason—her crazed and capricious behavior—it made them extremely uneasy. Miles gets the ominous, charged atmosphere right from the start. She picks out a few characters to follow through the storm—hurricane forecasters, the crew of a tall ship, the brave, crazy members of the search-and-rescue teams, the flyers in the weather-reconnaissance squads—and draws them carefully, putting readers in their shoes. She follows the storm day by day, pure energy growing into a system of organized movement, building, gathering wind and water, then unleashing her cargo with a rare full hit on Jamaica, followed by Haiti and Cuba. The level of suffering on these islands was catastrophic, and Miles maintains a small distance between their grief and the page, a bone-cracking misery that follows in the wake of a natural disaster. She provides short biographies of various hurricanes from the past, as well as a history of meteorology and its practices and the graveyard humor of the search-and-rescue teams. The author also tries to get into the head of the tall-ship captain, who pitted a gut decision against better judgment. Eventually, Sandy reached and obliterated the New Jersey shore and hammered New York City with 30-foot waves in the harbor and a colossal storm surge. Not just a chronicle of the storm’s terrible progression, this book is also a cautionary tale; as Miles notes, more than 70 percent of mandatory-evacuation residents made the poor decision to stay at home.
A rogue storm dazzlingly caught in all its unprecedented bizarreness.