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Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  180 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Experience the most devastating storms of the last fifty years through the eyes of the scientific visionaries who took them on and tamed them. Science and politics collide in this thrilling account of America's struggle for protection against the deadly threat of violent weather. Warnings tells the dramatic true stories of the unsung weather warriors who save innocent ...more
Hardcover, 286 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Greenleaf Book Group
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Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reality

A description of the development of American severe weather warning systems focusing on tornados, but covering also the reception and integration of Fujita's downburst theories and including what reads as a fairly lengthy but not particularly informative aside on hurricane forecasting, relating specifically (and almost exclusively) to 1992's hurricane Andrew and the Katrina catastrophe of 2005.

Smith's history seldom reaches farther back than 1948, but this is because the volume is also
Aug 18, 2011 rated it liked it
I don't think I would have found this as interesting if I hadn't moved from the mountain west (with its relatively mild weather) to the midwest (with frequent severe storms and tornado warnings). It helps that my daughter is fascinated by tornadoes/weather and includes storm chaser/meteorologist on her what-I-want-to-be list. I was fascinated by how the weather warning system, which I have taken for granted (and will no longer), developed over the last 65 years. The warnings and watches that are ...more
Beth Mason
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So good! Surprisingly, a page turner.

I expected this book to be interesting. But I didn’t expect it to be such a page turner. I couldn’t put it down. The writing is excellent. It has a good pace and kept me coming back for more. I love reading about weather, but I can’t say too many meteorology books have had me up in the middle of the night saying “just one more chapter!” This one did. The specific storm stories weave together the topics perfectly. I want to deliver a free copy to anyone who
Ken Heard
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised to learn that the Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) refused to issue tornado warnings as late as the 1950s so as not to scare people unnecessarily. That seems ridiculous today with constant live reports from tv weathermen, upgraded polarization Dopplar radars, satellite imagery that can pinpoint a tornado's thought process and more.

But that was the case, and Mike Smith was on the forefront of changing that practice. His book is an excellent history of tornadoes
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have a warning before you read Warnings: if you are not highly interested in severe weather--particularly tornadoes--this book is probably not for you! I will be teaching a unit we call Masters of Disaster next school year so I happen to be interested in all things drastic weather right now, so this was a fun start to my immersion in this topic.
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This one was a good read. It got a little tiresome with the author tooting his own horn throughout the book. But other than that I thought it was a good balance of weather, science, and politics.
When I first requested this book for review, little did I know I would be reading it and beginning my review amidst forest fires, smoky air, and strong wind gusts! My interest in requesting the book is twofold: I recall Hurricane Frieda roaring through Vancouver, BC (my home) in 1962, extremely rare for that area; my Dad's cousin, TV weatherman in Portland, OR, first to recognize and forecast it, spent the night updating on air. Weather has always fascinated me, not only because "everybody talks ...more
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I’ve been a bit of a weather nerd since I was a kid. One of the first things I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a tornado chaser (still working on that one!) So I was eager to read Warnings by Mike Smith. I wasn’t disappointed! It’s a fascinating history not just of the development of the severe weather warning systems in the U.S., but also of the general advancement of meteorology over the past half century+.

A word about the author: I’d heard the name Mike Smith before. He’s a pretty big
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith

" Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather " is a fantastic book that captures the evolution of meteorology through the personal accounts of Mike Smith. Like the perfect storm in which converging elements collide, this book is part memoir, part science and all real. This wonderful 304 page-book is composed of the following twenty-three chapters: 1. The Ruskin Heights Tornado, 2. No One Ever Knew it Was
David Blinn
As someone who appreciates the sciences and those who devote themselves to its practice, "Warnings" helped me to understand just how much I underappreciate the science of meteorology. The book opens with a visceral account of a deadly train derailment on Amtrak's Vermonter line in 2005 when the tracks are washed out due to a flash flood. While reading this passage, I thought to myself, wait a second, I used to regularly ride Amtrak's Vermonter line back in 2005. Why didn't I know about this ...more
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in weather
As a life-long resident Tornado Alley, I found this book gripping and fascinating. I read it last year before all our horrible tornadoes this spring, and I can only wonder what the death toll would have been without the warning system we have in place now. I was especially dumbfounded at how long it took for the tornado warning system to be developed--the first city wide alarm was in the late 1960's! The US Weather Service kept weather forecasters from giving tornado warnings because they ...more
Elaine Nelson
Jul 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Primarily the story of how the tornado warning system came to be, including the author's participation as a TV weather guy and then founder of a private weather service. And when he sticks to that, it's good stuff.

Periodically, there's these sort of anti-government zingers that just hit me the wrong way, although I can see where they come from, given his experience. Also, the last quarter of the book (except for the last chapter) goes into great detail about hurricanes (specifically Andrew &
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Oh, I love a good weather book. The information was not new to me -- having read it Nancy Mathis' Storm Warning -- but it still stuns me to know that it was forbidden to warn of tornadoes pretty much until the 1960s. Especially with the hysteria some of the local news outlets whip up today! But I certainly appreciate the development of radar technology. When I was a kid, one of the tornadoes of the 1974 Super Outbreak passed within a few miles of our house. We had no clue. Going back and ...more
Jon Christianson
Jun 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jon by: Roger Pielke Jr.
Mike Smith does an excellent job of walking the reader through the history (and progress) of the National Weather Service in Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather. Smith incorporates a number of first-hand severe weather accounts dating back to the mid-1950s, which allows the book to read more like a story than a series of weather reports. Based on Smith’s meteorological experience and accomplishments (sold his company AccuWeather in 2006), he does a fair amount of ...more
Emily Domitrovic hamburg
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable and fascinating book that details the evolution of meteorology and forecasting over the past 70 years. It truly gave me a new appreciation for the good work done behind the scenes and taken for granted in this field that has reduced the loss of life and property both on the ground and in the aviation world due to advances in technology and communication processes. Smith also showed how no amount of technology can compensate for the bureaucracy and incompetence of the government in ...more
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love reading books about the weather, and there are several great books out there about grand-scale disasters that shape us. Warnings looks at these storms through the lens of a meteorologist dedicated to predicting storms. Mike Smith shows us how these major storms have shaped our understanding of the science of weather, as well as how our growing understanding of weather shaped our ability to warn citizens, plan for disaster, and ultimately save lives. It is also a history of the ...more
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
I've looked forward to reading this for ages as I'm fascinated by severe weather and forecasting. The book was most interesting with its accounts of the Tinker Air Force base tornadoes and the gripping acount of the Greensburg EF5, but the author's prodigious ego inserted itself so often throughout the book that I just couldn't get beyond it. It seems extraordiarily biased towards for-profit weather forecasting and scornful of everyone else. The author appears to believe that he's the most ...more
Deborah Johnson
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I thought this would be a good handbook to read because I had just moved to the midwest in the middle of tornado alley. It was so much better than I could have ever expected - it was exciting and took me right into the middle of some of the most extreme storms of recent years. I would say that everyone from New Orleans should be reading this book! The Katrina chapters were so emotional. It is not at all a science book it is a life saver and a must read for anyone who has ever experienced extreme ...more
Lori Britton-levack
This is a very informational book on how meterology has changed over almost 60 years. The information provided on past storms, and how prediction of life and property loss storms has drastically changed, and the different hurtles that were and still are present in effective warnings systems in place. The burecratic side of weather warnings is amazing, as is the un-decisive nature of federal ownership of when or how to word a warning. If you love meterology, and knowledge of history, you will ...more
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
I LOVE books about weather. And if someone is looking for a fun yet informative story, this is a pretty decent one. I give it two stars however, because I strongly feel that if you go into the history (that isn't yours personally) there should be references on where you found the information. He states that he was good friends with Fujita (which is awesome!) but he could still cite his work as well as other historical information.
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: weather
Mr Smith writes an excellent book outlining the transition of mindset within the Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service (NWS)) with regard to severe weather warnings. I particularly enjoyed the details surrounding the subject of tornadoes, both historical and present day. I also enjoyed the perspective from a commercial provider although I think the addition of a perspective from the NWS would have been good as well.
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Talk about an amazing read. The book chronicles the history of our weather warning system, focusing mainly on tornadoes. From the days when the NWS couldn't even mention or think about issuing a tornado warning to our high tech warning systems that we have now, this book covers it all without being too geeky for the average reader. As someone who has been 3 tornadoes in person and living in the Midwest, I definitely came away with a greater appreciation for our warning system.
Penn State Brandywine Environmental Inquiry
Book extras for those that have purchased the book:

A video by the author that inspired him to write the book:

Jan 06, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed learning about the history of weather warning systems in America. Some of the information presented was quite shocking, and overall, this was an excellent book. My only complaint is that you can tell the author is not a writer. I felt parts of the book were disorganized, and his writing became repetitive at times, but I'm still glad I took the time to read this book.
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best meteorology books I've read. Though at a couple points there were some dips in my interest, on a whole I was captivated by the beauty and intensity of the writing. I was moved to tears at some points and also thoroughly disgusted at others. It was a moving and informative book I would recommend to anyone.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, owned
A history of weather forecasting which focuses on the advances of technology and politics that made it all possible. A wonderful modern tale of science history.
Update: 4-14- Currently having my high school Freshman earth-space science class reading it and the students are enjoying it almost as much as I did.
Aug 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
I'm fascinated by most things weather related. This book was no exception - with one drawback. The acronyms!

I found myself lost in the letters and finally just had to skip over them in order to stay focused on the meat of the book.
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
More likely would have had 3.5 stars, but Smith's tendency to insert his company's name got a little grating. The history is fairly good, and Smith knows his stuff, having been on the scene or known the people that were involved in major developments in weather forecasting.
Lake County Public Library
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, science
For anyone who thought that tornado sirens and warnings were a logical step, think again. This is an enthralling history of meteorology and the thought behind it, as well as a fascinating account of meteorologists standing behind their emergency forecasts, at the risk of losing their jobs. --SS/SJ
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Good monograph on the Joplin, MO tornado
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“While meteorology as an applied science has made tremendous strides in the past fifty years, we have not yet discovered a cure for bureaucracy.” 1 likes
“Meanwhile, the residents of the 138,000 damaged buildings continued to swelter and suffer. Local Miamians, as well as citizens from Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, attempted to drive bottled water, food, clothes, and other supplies into the stricken area. They were successful during the first few hours; but they were shut down by the end of the first day. The same bureaucrats who were giving mixed signals to Washington seemed to prefer organized suffering to disorganized relief.” 0 likes
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