- Mass Market Paperback: 65 pages
- Publisher: Mennonite Press, Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC; First edition (May 15, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0692017437
- ISBN-13: 978-0692017432
- Package Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,629,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When the Sirens Were Silent Mass Market Paperback – May 15, 2012
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"Whew, I just read it. Heart racing!! --Denise Neil, Joplin tornado survivor
"Great work! Its informative and entertaining. I was anxious while reading it and I had to continue to remind myself that I already knew the outcome. --Jaime Green, Joplin tornado survivor
About the Author
Mike Smith has been passionate about weather and saving lives since he was five years old. A major tornado moved through his neighborhood and destroyed his kindergarten which set the course for the rest of his life. After being a television meteorologist in St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Wichita, Mike founded WeatherData, Inc. in 1981. It quickly became the leading company in the field of business-to-business warnings of extreme weather. Mike sold the assets of WeatherData to AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions in 2006 and has stayed on as Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Executive. In addition to his business acumen, Mike is a certified consulting meteorologist and a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. In 1992, he received the Society's highest award in the field of applied meteorology for his work in creating innovative storm warning techniques. In 2000, WeatherData won the highest award for corporate meteorology for its outreach to government and academic meteorologists. AccuWeather received the same award for corporate meteorology in 2011. Mike is a frequent public speaker. In addition to his books, "When the Sirens Were Silent" and "Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather," Smith has written numerous scientific and technical articles about weather and applied weather science. He is also a published photographer and is the inventor on 19 U.S. and foreign patents. Mike is married, the father of three grown children, and resides in Wichita.
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One aspect Mr. Smith did not hit on is the policy of cable providers overriding your channel selection and forcing your cable supplied televisions to switch to The Weather Channel. I don't remember what I was watching on TV before my cable box was forced over to The Weather Channel. But, I do remember that I was switched over to a TWC show that I had no interest in watching that offered a written scrolling warning at the bottom of my TV screen. What I read was that the storm was travelling northeast and that Carl junction was in its path. Despite the reassurance from TWS and NWS I did what I always did in bad weather, go judge for myself. There were NO sirens when my son and I took shelter at our apartment complex at 21st and Connecticut. There was only gray skies, weird vibes and the sense of doom.
Another factor that I believe played a role in the number of deaths is the simple fact that it was a warm late Sunday afternoon in a small city surrounded by smaller communities. People come to Joplin to shop, eat, go to the movies, etc. When looking at the long list of obituaries well after the storm, I thought it was notable that many of the deaths were of people who lived outside of town. I wonder how many were killed in businesses they were seeking shelter in.
This is a well written book and I encourage anyone who is concerned about the risks of tornados or who, like myself, is still trying to put together the pieces of what happened to us that day to read.
You also mention that there are thousands of residents without basements or shelters in Joplin. That's a high risk in tornado alley. Other factors that contributed to the high death-count were people on the roads and out shopping and/or dining in Joplin as mentioned in the previous paragraph. There's very little protection against an EF5 tornado other than being underground or in a tornado-safe room. I would assume most of the businesses hit that day didn't have that type of protection. And being "rain-wrapped" made the situation that much worse --- as Denise and Jamie experienced. The El Reno, Oklahoma tornado in 2013 is an example of how erratic these tornadoes are. If Tim Samaras, a well known tornado researcher and chaser, was taken by surprise, what chance does the public have in these situations? Tim Samaras, his son, Paul, and partner, Carl Young, died in the El Reno tornado. Tim was the most cautious chaser in the industry. Mike Bettes and his "Tornado Hunt" team from the Weather Channel nearly met the same fate Tim Samaras and his team met. Tornadoes can change directions without warning. Imagine the death toll in Joplin had the tornado kept its EF4/EF5 intensity as it suddenly moved southeast from its northeast direction instead of dissipating. This would have caught many more residents off guard. Professional storm chasers are field experts the Weather Science Department depends on for data, but they are needed just as much to warn residents of the potential danger. Jeff and Kathryn Piotrowski probably saved many lives that day from their chasing efforts.
Human error and system failure can never be ruled out --- EVER! Having a NOAA radio or a mobile app to receive tornado warnings is imperative for all residents in "tornado alley", particularly if these dangerous storms take place when residents are sleeping.
I will end this review by highly recommending this story. The insights on what took place in the hours before the tornado struck and as the tornado was on the ground are priceless. The concerns Mike Smith presents are credible and real, sad to say. But his message on preparing for such an epic storm at the end of the story are also priceless. Thanks, Mike.
The National Weather Service kept putting the tornado path much farther north. The city tended to sound the sirens at the drop of a hat, so much so that residents sometimes disregarded them because they happened so often.
He also included a few stories of the day. The high school graduation that, fortunately, was moved from the high school gym (which ended up being destroyed) to a college. Two women and a child who left a wedding, only to get caught up in the middle of the tornado.
Most importantly, the author provides up-to-date information about what to do in a tornado, particularly as for schools and companies. The author takes scientific terms and has a great knack for putting things in easy-to-understand language.
This is quite a worthwhile little book to read. I'd like to read a more extensive book about the Joplin tornado at some point but this is quite good. It's the second tornado book by this author I've read. Loved them both and hope he writes more of them.
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