Bostonia: The Alumni Magazine of Boston University

Summer 2012 Table of Contents

Weather Wisdom

Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider’s book offers a crash course on surviving natural disasters

| From Alumni Books | By Susan Seligson

Schneider’s book offers crucial information and simple survival tips and corrects common, potentially lethal misconceptions.

Make time to read Bonnie Schneider’s book carefully, and the author may turn out to be one of the best friends you’ll ever have. A meteorologist at CNN since 2005, Schneider (COM’91) has reported on the most catastrophic weather events of the past decade.

We should, to the extent possible, be educated and prepared. Schneider’s packed volume, Extreme Weather: A Guide to Surviving Flash Floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Heat Waves, Snowstorms, Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), offers crucial information and simple survival tips and corrects common, potentially lethal misconceptions.

With 11 chap­ters devoted to different disasters and additional sec­tions on using social media and creating disaster plans for pets as well as people, Schneider prefaces each section with a harrowing real-life story, a scientific primer, a definition of terms, and a straightforward translation of, say, a tornado watch versus a tornado warning, hurricane categories, or rip current “out­looks.” In sober, direct prose, the succession of lists (what to do when your car stalls on a flooded road, what to do during a wildfire if you are at home, what to do if you’re caught in a rip current) is peppered throughout with hair-raising facts: a landslide can move at 35 miles per hour, unnoticed tsunami waves can advance at the speed of a commercial jet plane, and heat causes more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined.

We learn that in 1980 in the central and eastern United States, extreme heat caused an estimated 10,000 deaths, and that a lightning bolt can travel horizontally many miles from a thunderstorm, hence the term “bolt from the blue.”

Schneider doesn’t limit her advice to weather-besieged folks in houses, large buildings, or cars; there are sections on surviving disasters on boats, at campsites, and on the beach. She tells us when we can rely on our cell phones and when we can’t, and how to safely reenter homes and buildings after the damage is done.

If this, well, torrent of information doesn’t make you want to settle on high ground and pull the covers over your head, it affords the opportunity to be proactive. Schneider offers a handy, concise outline of basic disaster supplies to stow at home, in the car, and at the office. After this crash course in what can go wrong, why, and how, securing that three-day water supply, battery-powered radio, flashlight, and whistle doesn’t seem like too much trouble.

Ask the Expert

Through July, Bonnie Schneider will answer your weather questions.