One of the first things meteorologist and author Wayne Neely does when he’s completed a book on hurricanes is ensure that his books can be found in school libraries around the country as a resource tool for students, as well as the general public who consider themselves students of history. With the release of his 14th book – “The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes to Impact The Bahamas: The Stories Behind the Great Storms” – Neely found himself just last week assisting a number of high school students with information out of the newly released book for a paper they had to write on a major hurricane that impacted The Bahamas, the impact the storm had on the society at the time and how it affected life in The Bahamas.
The students who used his book as a resource were some of the first people to read Neely’s latest book. He said the students also made use of his previous books for the project, which entailed them selecting one hurricane to write on.
“Whenever I publish a book, the first thing I do is to ensure the books are placed in the schools so that Bahamian students can learn about hurricanes – and not only the impact of hurricanes, but also the impact those hurricanes had on the people, the country and society at the time. And that’s a lesson in history, because you have to know your past. For example, most people didn’t know what to do during Dorian, and you saw the death toll rose significantly with Dorian, because most people never experienced a major hurricane, so writing these books, I am able to provide a template storm to let people know what these storms are capable of inflicting on the country.”
Neely’s latest book covers every major hurricane to impact The Bahamas in a significant way since the 1500s, including a little-known storm that he says many people don’t know about: the Crooked Island Hurricane (or the Vicente Yanez Pinzon) of 1500, which he said is the third documented hurricane in the region and which sunk two ships – one relatively unknown and the other known – the Frailia and the Pinta.
The book focuses on the greatest and deadliest storms that have hit The Bahamas over the past five centuries – Andrew, Floyd, Donna, Dorian, David, Matthew, Betsy, Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. Other unnamed storms included include The Great Nassau Hurricane of 1926, The Great Abaco Hurricane of 1932, The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1886, The Great Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 and The Great Andros Island Hurricane of 1929.
The book was on the press when Hurricane Dorian hit. Neely stopped the printing, because the magnitude of the monster storm meant that he needed to at least add a chapter to his tome to include a chapter on Hurricane Dorian which ravaged the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September 2019.
“They had already started printing the book and I had to call them to cancel it until Dorian had passed so that I could include information on Dorian, and because it was such a significant storm, and I was dealing with the greatest and deadliest hurricanes to impact The Bahamas. At that time, Dorian was a Category 5 storm so I said I better wait until Dorian was finished so I could include Dorian as well.”
In the added chapter on Dorian, which encompasses nine pages which brings the completed book up to 651 pages, Neely gives the initial assessment of the initial impact the storm had on Grand Bahama and Abaco. He includes information from people who experienced the storm in a significant way and their recollections of what they endured.
He also shows the impact of the storm on the islands through pictures, as well as the oil tanker damage. It also gives information about the storm itself that he says makes it significant: the records that Dorian broke and how unique the storm was not only in The Bahamas, but regionally and globally.
“The storm warranted that I put the book on hold until it finished, and I think I did the right thing,” he said.
“The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes to Impact the Bahamas: The Stories Behind the Great Storms” was released on December 8, 2019, just a little over three months after the storm hit.
Neely has plans to revisit Hurricane Dorian in a more complete book, detailing the impact of Dorian on The Bahamas.
“As time goes by, you get a clearer picture of the impact,” he said.
Bill Read, director of the United States National Hurricane Center 2008-2012, who wrote the foreword for Neely’s book, said the meteorologist, author and lecturer on hurricanes provides a detailed compilation of the meteorology, impact and societal implications of the many storms that have crossed The Bahamas.
“While there are many documents that describe one or several of the important storms in our history, none have covered in one volume, the entirety of hurricanes in The Bahamas. In doing so, Mr. Neely has provided a valuable service for those who wish to understand how hurricanes have shaped the history and economy of The Bahamas. Included in the book are easy-to-understand descriptions on the science behind hurricanes and of the changing understanding of the forecast challenges we who live along coasts threatened by these storms face,” wrote Read.
He wrote that, as a collector of books written about hurricanes and society, he would treasure the addition of Neely’s new volume to his collection.
“I particularly enjoyed the added Bahamian history Wayne has included for context. I will enjoy referring to this book for interesting facts of storms from long ago. For people living in the islands, as well as other hurricane-prone areas, ‘The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes to Impact The Bahamas: The Stories Behind the Great Storms of the Islands of The Bahamas’ is a must-read,” he wrote.
In the book you learn of Christopher Columbus’ fleet of ships that were sailing from South America through The Bahamas and of their getting caught in the hurricane of the 1500s near Crooked Island, the sinking of the ships and the loss of life of 550 men in that storm, along with all the treasures lost from both of those ships.
Neely’s latest book is a great resource for students, and one that also provides history for those people interested in Bahamian history.
“It not only talks about the storms, but it also talks to the impact of storms on the history of The Bahamas. For example, some of the storms in the ‘20s and ‘30s and the late 1800s impacted the sponging era and most of the sponge fishermen were out at sea and those hurricanes cost those men at sea during the sponging era, and many of them succumbed to the storm on those boats that were caught – because they had no indication that a major storm was passing, other than random ways like watching the sea birds and watching the cloud pattern.”
Neely promises a more complete book on Hurricane Dorian after he releases the next book in his lineup, which delves into the 1933 Cuba-Brownsville Hurricane that devastated Eleuthera and which he said was the only Category 5 hurricane that he has not explored as yet.
“The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes to Impact The Bahamas: The Stories Behind the Great Storms” is Neely’s biggest book to date and was published by two companies – iUniverse and Urilink.
It was the number-one release for weather books on Amazon and The New York Times bestseller list upon release.
The book – which can be had as an e-book, hard cover or soft cover – is available locally at Logos, Harbour Bay Shopping Centre, and on all major online bookstores.
Neely has also been invited to present on “Hurricanes in The Bahamas” at the second annual Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) Social Studies Coursework Workshop for students, January 25-26 at Fusion Superplex, to provide students with information and research strategies to aid in the preparation for BJC Social Studies coursework for 2020.