A Furious Sky: The Five Hundred Year History of America’s Hurricanes
© 2020 Eric Jay Dolin
A Furious Sky is a history of hurricanes in American history, opening with Columbus’ attempts to warn a rival governor of imminent danger and wrapping up with one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record, in which three major systems crashed into the American mainland in a few months’ time. Although the author focused on the development and impact of the storms themselves, featuring numerous systems from colonial days until the present, he also follows the growth of meteorological forecasting in the United States, culminating in satellite coverage. Many of the high-dollar storms have occurred in living memory, like Andrew and Katrina, but there are more here from the 18th and 19th centuries that have more generic names (“The Great Storm of 18__”,etc). I didn’t appreciate how devastated the northeast has been by hurricanes throughout history, in part because they’re rare enough that locals forget about the threat. Furious Sky is quite readable, but were it not for the occasional forays into another topic, like the curious tale of how hurricanes came to be named after women, repetition would be an issue – it’s literally one storm after another, and the study of hurricane science stops in the early 20th century, with no discussion of oceanic cycles and that sort of thing. If you enjoy reading about disasters (and I, for some perverse reason, too), this should be a good read — but I’d go slow and take it in sections to keep it from growing stale. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, it’s also a grim antidote to the tendency to forget the dangers posed by Katrinas, Marias, and Zetas in quieter years like 2021.
Coming up this week: The Great Gatsby and wabbit season.