Saturday, September 04, 2004

Chasing the wind

As Hurricane Frances bears down today, Scott Huler has an interesting op-ed on hurricanes and their names. The names are recycled every six years, unless they cut too deep to be forgotten. There will never be another Hazel, or Camille,* or Gloria, or Fran. Or Frances.

Huler, a journalist, knows a lot about windy weather. He came to his subject curiously. Working as a copy editor, he happened upon Admiral Francis Beaufort's centuries-old scale for identifying wind velocity. Struck by the spare beauty of the language, he gave in to an obsession to figure it all out. The result is Defining the Wind, which was published this summer.

You can hear him interviewed about the book on WUNC. As he reads the Beaufort Scale, what comes across is the perfect conjunction of science and poetry.

*"If I could have one part of the world back the way it used to be, I would not choose Dresden before the fire bombing, Rome before Nero, or London before the blitz. I would not resurrect Babylon, Carthage or San Francisco. Let the leaning tower lean and the hanging gardens hang. I want the Mississippi Gulf Coast back the way it was before Hurricane Camille."
--Elizabeth Spencer

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