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Tornado Project Newsletter
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Tornado Project Newsletter

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Tornadoes--Hesston (Kan.)


Letter to purchasers of "Significant Tornadoes" with information about delivery and reasons for delays


Grazulis, Thomas P.


Hesston Public Library










Tornado Project Newsletter.pdf

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Grazulis, Thomas P. , “Tornado Project Newsletter,” Hesston Public Library, accessed July 25, 2021, https://hesston.digitalsckls.info/item/470.

Tornado Project Newsletter
September 10, 1990
important points that are detailed: ....November 15th delivery
....reasons for delays ....free 1991 and 1992 updates
To all purchasers/orderers of Significant Tornadoes:
The impossible does take a bit longer. I am requesting more of your patience with my effort to complete this project in its newly expanded form. We go to press on September 30th. The printer (the best in the business) promises delivery of this long and complex two-volume set within six weeks. It will then take us a few days to actually get the books packaged and in the mail. A November 15th shipping date is therefore realistic. Some of you have waited two years for this book. Some of you have been looking in book stores for 30 years for a book on tornadoes. Beyond the specific reasons listed below, there is a broader reason for taking the needed additional time with this book. Much of it will be reference material for future books by other authors.
These books mark an end to an era in tornado documentation. However, as the new Doppler radar era dawns, it is clear that tornado studies are still in their infancy. If there is any doubt about just how meager our knowledge is, that debate was settled last week when 27 people were killed in northern Illinois by an F5 level tornado, without benefit of a tornado watch or warning. This book will not explain the lack of warning, but it will put the death toll into better perspective.
The single biggest reason for changing the shipping date from August to November was to enlarge the book from one to two volumes, expanding from a total of 750 to a total of 950 pages. This allowed us to add previously deleted material. The deletions were needed to bring the volume down to a manageable single-volume, 750-page size. The number of photographs has been expanded from 200 to 300. This was all made possible by the commitment and patience of the people and libraries that placed a pre-published order for the book. We halted the finalization of the single volume and began the re-design process in early July. We were originally scheduled to go to press on July 15th.
There were innumerable lesser reasons for delays that involved the tornadoes themselves, and others that had nothing to do with tornadoes, but involved improved typesetting and graphics reproduction from very old books.
The problems of determining whether a specific event was or was not a tornado can be a major problem. As fate would have it, at the very end of the 110-year period of the book, November 1989, there was an event in New York State that reopened the debate as to what constitutes a true tornado. It placed us in a difficult situation in early July. The debate is over whether a specific piece of damage was done by true tornado or by "straight-wind" microburst. On November 16, 1989 nine students were killed in the cafeteria of an elementary school, six miles west of Newburgh, New York. A cafeteria wall was blown down on them. In late July, 1990, the NWS published its final analysis of the event, attributing all nine deaths to an F1 tornado. In subsequent conversations with Dr. Fujita, he made it clear that he felt that the deaths were not caused by a tornado. Dr. Fujita determined that a hillside near the school had focused the microburst into a narrow path that gave some of the damage path false tornado-like characteristics, but that the event that actually caused the deaths was a microburst. Funnel clouds or rotating winds on the periphery of the microburst may have existed and been seen, but it was not a tornado that actually caused the deaths.
We have not called this event a significant tornado and do not list it in the 750-page Volume Two chronology. Instead we created a new section in Volume One called "Mysteries." These are major killer windstorms of the past century that might have been tornadic, but are not listed in the Volume Two. The 1989 New York event does not top that list, but it is high on it. All this takes time, but we have passed the last hurdles.
Perhaps the announcement of the book earlier this year was premature. Perhaps we should have foreseen these delays. However, the pre-paid orders provided the flexibility to go ahead with improving the book(s) in many ways. Two of these ways, expanding and splitting the book into two volumes, and adding a new section to the book are described
above. Keep in mind that these books will exist only because of this unconventional bookpublishing strategy. Otherwise, the lack of any comprehensive book was likely to continue into the next century.
Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions that people have included with their orders:
About videos: I am putting my tornado film "Approaching the Unapproachable" on VHS and making a list of suppliers of other tornado video products. This list will be on the newsletter noted below.
About 1990 tornadoes: The pre-publication response to the book provided the resources, not just to expand and split the book, but also for a newsletter covering the tornadoes of 1990. Our newsletter will go out shortly after the 1990 data is finalized by the NWS and will included a perspective on the accuracy of the official data. That will probably be in August or September of 1991. A 1991 update also will be likely. (See below)
About other books: The only comprehensive book on U.S. tornadoes published in this century was Snowden Flora's, "Tornadoes of the United States," published in 1953 by the University of Oklahoma Press. It is a fascinating book, but out of print, and out of date.
I have contracted to update and rewrite this book for the OU Press. I will begin that task the day after the day after the last copy of "Significant Tornadoes" is in the mail. It will appear in bookstores in time for Christmas, 1992 or for the tornado season in spring, 1993. I will couple a 1991 tornado summary with the announcement of that book.
Additional copies: There will be an ad in the October issue of Weatherwise. Respondents will be told that a short-run second printing will be done in early 1991, IF there is sufficient interest. The latest order date would be February 1st, with a shipping date of March 1st, in time for the 1991 season. The price will be set after the number of responses are counted and a quote is received from the printer. I know that this is not how "the marketplace" works, but this particular set of books is not a commercial effort. Copyrights: Every word, map, and diagram in "Significant tornadoes" is in the public
domain, but the photographs are not. Some have copyright limitations.
Why no comprehensive tornado book exists: There are two fundamental reasons:
1. Despite the frequent media hype, very little is known about tornadoes except where and when they have occurred. Prior to this project, that occurrence data was inconsistent and poorly organized. Most of what we know about tornadoes is not actually about the tornado itself but about the enormously complex thunderstorm cells that spawn them. There are some very technical books on fluid dynamics and mesocyclones.
2. The experts in this field are few in number and largely technically-oriented people, not writers of general information books. The people involved with the public and tornadoes on day-to-day basis are mostly government employees who are prohibited from accepting royalties on a book in their field. No publisher will offer a large enough advance for a tornado book to release any university faculty to write such a book. It became obvious that the only way to get a book into existence was to incorporate it into the government project to organize and improve occurrence data that already existed. It helped that it did not involve university or government personnel. Then it would be necessary to have the interested public pay in advance for the costs of assembling, designing, and printing a professionally produced book. All of this fell to me, almost by default. There are some outstanding people at the University of Oklahoma, at Purdue University, and at the National Severe Storms Laboratory who, perhaps upon retirement, will write THE definitive text on tornadoes. In the meantime, "Significant Tornadoes" will fill a gap, organize the occurrence data, provide some direction, and make it easier for the next books to be written. Tornadoes are rare and spectacular beasts; perhaps the most spectacular of all non-living phenomena on the planet. They are spawned by supercell thunderstorms that are among the most complex of all non-living entities. I hope that these books will help you appreciate the variety and complexity of the tornado-seasons to come. I just need a bit more time to avoid irrevocable mistakes and to improve perspectives.
Thomas P. Grazulis

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