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When the Sirens Were Silent Mass Market Paperback – May 15, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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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Product Details

  • 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
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,467,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mike Smith does an admirable job capturing what happened in Joplin in a crisp efficient review of events and procedures. Overwarning the public and accepting high false alarm rates have plagued the weather forecasters and emergency managers for many years--especially with the advent of the Doppler radar and its ability to detect some but not all rotating thunderstorms. Joplin is the case that shows what can happen when the public becomes complacent about severe weather and the impact of the warning sirens that had been apparently overused in the past but strangely were late in going into action on this day. As a result of this storm and others in Tuscaloosa and elswhere in recent years officials are coming to grips with how to warn the public of impending danger without overwarning and its resulting complacency. New methods for accurately communicating what is happening to all corners of the affected region are being explored. Mike's book will be a must read for those who are dealing with this problem.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting short book about the tornado that hit Joplin MO, and did so much damage, and killed so many people. The book addresses what happened, and how the people get warned. He has some excellent points regarding the fact that there is not one uniform and consistent policy on how to use warning sirens. Some local communities use the sirens only for life threatening issues, and other communities use them for many different warnings, not all of which are life threatening. This can result in people not all getting a warning like in the case of the Tornado hitting Joplin. Then there can be issues as to where the tornado is located, and how this information is provided to the residents of community, and visitors who may be passing through on the local roads. He has some good points about a uniform policy on using warning sirens, and ensuring that it is conveyed to everyone. Warning sirens can become much less useful and be ignored if they are overused.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mr. Smith's timeline and reporting of the warnings received is spot-on. The book is a short read but it makes his points clearly understandable. My son and I are alive because of my own gut instinct that came from living in Joplin since I was nine. Neither the Joplin emergency management nor the NWS played any role.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting little book, about the size of a Kindle single really. This weather expert analyzes the forecasting errors and mishandling of the tornado sirens on that May, 2011 day when a devastating, deadly tornado hit Joplin, Missouri. If you live in a tornado region, I think it's a must-read book. It's a quick, but informative, read.

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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