The man known as Mr. Hurricane
If there were such a thing as a rock star of hurricanes, it would be Wayne Neely. Amongs the “weather set”, he’s become known as “Mr. Hurricane” for his love of weather and weather systems, which has spurred the writing of 10 books on the topic of hurricanes. His latest is titled “The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes of the Caribbean and the Americas: The Stories Behind the Great Storms of the North Atlantic”.
Neely’s latest book is his biggest to date and includes all of the major hurricanes to impact the North Atlantic — the Caribbean, North America, Canada, Bermuda and Central America — from the time Europeans first encountered hurricanes in the region in 1494 to Matthew in 2016.
“This book is different from any of the other books. I’ve included all the major hurricanes of the region, and the stories behind the hurricanes, so the book, technically, is much better than any I’ve done in the past, and a much better read as well,” said Neely, 46. “For history buffs, this will be an excellent read.”
In the book, the author even alludes to the fact that, if it hadn’t been for hurricanes in 1509 and the early 1600s, the United States of America could probably have been a Spanish-speaking country.
“I don’t know if the ending would have changed, but because of that hurricane, the Spanish lost control of the Americas, and we have the hurricane to thank for that.”
He even addresses Christopher Columbus’ fleet encountering a hurricane on Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in 1494.
Neely’s latest book was released on the global market in December 2016. On Thursday, he said his book company notified him that it was already a bestseller on the international market. The book is expected to be in local bookstores by next week, and bookstores already have waiting lists. Neely expects the first 500 printed for The Bahamas to be sold out within a matter of days.
“It’s unbelievable. I’m humbled. I’m thankful. I only consider it God’s favor on my life,” said Neely. “It makes me feel proud that I did something that other persons recognize, and to see a book being sold in Japan with my name on it is unbelievable.”
This would be Neely’s second time penning a bestseller. His seventh book, “The Great Hurricane of 1780: The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane of the Caribbean and the Americas”, also made the bestseller list.
Neely attributes this to the fact that the hurricanes he dealt with in the books were more far-reaching and affected more people. His other works included mostly hurricanes that affected The Bahamas.
“I wrote another book in 2006 called ‘Rediscovering Hurricanes: Everything You Wanted to Know About Hurricanes but Was Never Told’, and I don’t think that book did justice, because nowadays I have significantly more research information and I was able to write a better book. I consider this my best book on hurricanes by far,” he said.
“People in North America would be interested in this book because it includes all of those hurricanes, and which hurricanes impacted which countries, and the date, time and significant events that occurred within those hurricanes.”
The rock star author on hurricanes is also an international speaker, hurricane lecturer and educator. A meteorologist, he developed his love for hurricanes and weather while growing up on Andros, where he listened to his parents, grandparents and other residents in the community speak about a major hurricane in 1929 that devastated The Bahamas. That piqued his interest in hurricanes and got him started on writing his first book “The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1929”.
And he says he isn’t considering stopping anytime soon, as hurricanes will always happen. He also says his books have been tremendous a help to people in the research community. Besides, doing the research and penning the books is something that he loves.
Neely’s 10th book offers up many surprises. Readers learn of how Bermuda first got settled, after a fleet taking supplies from England to North America encountered a hurricane near the island in 1609.
The Sea Venture Hurricane of 1609, he writes, prompted William Shakespeare’s final play, “The Tempest”.
“The Sea Venture and a fleet of ships were bound for Virginia to relieve the starving Jamestown colonists, when a powerful hurricane crippled their ships on July 28, 1609. The 150 men, women and children aboard found safety on the Bermuda Islands. The passengers became Bermuda’s first inhabitants, and their stories helped inspire William Shakespeare’s writing of ‘The Tempest,’ making it perhaps the most famous hurricane in early American history.”
You also learn of The Nassau Hurricane of 1926, 1928 and 1929, which basically changed the way The Bahamas looked, and shifted its main industry from sponging to tourism.
“Those hurricanes basically wiped out the sponge fleets, and the infrastructure in the sponging industry; and of course the sponge disease in 1938, the governor at that time decided to switch from sponging to develop the fledgling tourism industry at the time, and that’s why we have the number one industry as tourism,” he said.
You also learn how the word “hurricane” became associated with the weather system.
Spoiler alert: Neely wrote, “The 1494 hurricane was the first known hurricane that the Europeans had experienced. At this time, they didn’t know or were familiar with the term we use today called a hurricane, so they referred to it as a ‘tempest’, because that was a term they were quite familiar with and it destroyed their first settlement in the New World. During the hurricane, they saw the local Taíno Indians running to the hills with fear in their eyes, hands extended upward to the skies and very much afraid and calling this storm ‘huracan’ or ‘Furacáne.’ They believed that their god was inflicting punishment on them for something they did or did not do.
Other historical tidbits the reader can learn from the book include that of the hurricane of 1565 that helped change the course of American history, and was responsible for the French not retaining control of the United States. The French, Neely writes, had an outpost at Fort Carolina (near modern-day Jacksonville, Florida). They lost their bid to control the Atlantic coast of North America when a storm destroyed their fleet, allowing the Spanish at St. Augustine to capture Fort Carolina, Florida. In the book he tells the entire story of how the French lost their bid for control to the Spanish with the help of the hurricane.
You also learn about the hurricane of 1622 that sank the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, the most famous of a fleet of Spanish treasure ships off the Florida Keys while carrying copper, silver, gold, tobacco, gems, jewels and indigo from Spanish ports at Cartagena and Porto Bello in New Granada (modern day countries of Colombia and Panama, respectively) and Havana bound for Spain. Treasure hunter Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha in 1985.
Neely also writes about the deadliest hurricane of the region — The Great Hurricane of 1780, which killed 22,000 people in the Caribbean October 10–16 of that year. Neely writes about how that storm devastated Caribbean island economies as many settlers abandoned their plantations and returned to England.
Neely’s latest book, which was to be released last year, was postponed to allow the author to include Hurricane Matthew, which devastated The Bahamas last year and caused an estimated $600 million in damage, making it the costliest hurricane in Bahamian history.
“The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes of the Caribbean and the Americas: The Stories behind the Great Hurricanes of the North Atlantic” is available this week in local bookstores, major online bookstores www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com as an e-book, softcover or hardback book.
Neely is already on pace to release his 11th book later this year, and he has also been tapped to appear on a PBS and Nova documentary about his seventh book, “The Great Hurricane of 1780: The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane of the Caribbean and the Americas”.
Wayne Neely’s books
“The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1929: The Story of the Greatest Bahamian Hurricane of the Twentieth Century”
“The Major Hurricanes to Affect The Bahamas: Personal Recollections of the Greatest Storms to Affect The Bahamas”
“Rediscovering Hurricanes: Everything You Wanted to Know About Hurricanes But Was Never Told”
“The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1926”
“The Great Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928: The Story of the Second Deadliest Hurricane in American History and the Deadliest Hurricane in Bahamian History”
“The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1929”
“The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932: The Story of Two of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes to Impact The Bahamas”
“The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1866: The Story of One of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes to Ever Impact The Bahamas”
“The Great Hurricane of 1780: The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane of the Caribbean and The Americas”
“The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes of the Caribbean and the Americas: The Stories Behind the Great Storms of the North Atlantic”.