It's been a very long time since I've sat through a real hurricane. I'm about to get my memory jogged when I get to experience Dorian this weekend, which is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.
About seven years ago I made the acquaintance of an intrepid photographer/videographer named Jim Edds, who had spotted a ZDNet article I wrote on hurricane tracker applications.
As it turns out, this guy is an expert on chasing dangerous storms and had a whole bunch of apps he himself uses to do his work, so I included them in an updated version of the article.
I was curious about his work, so checked out his website, Extremestorms.com. The site is loaded with pictures and video footage from over 20 years of his experience as a professional storm photographer selling images and video to major news outlets.
Unfortunately, his website is laid out like something from the Netscape 2.0 days written with a shareware web authoring tool and a circa-1995 copy of "HTML for Dummies."
After speaking to him on the phone, I suggested that maybe he should get himself some professional help and clean it up a bit. As I recall, he responded with something along the lines of "I'm really too busy to do that, I'm working on a book, it's coming out in a few months, I'll get to it eventually."
He eventually contacted me and said his book was out, and it was on the Apple iBooks store.
iBooks store? Why the hell didn't he release it on Kindle? There's a hell of a lot more people who use Kindles than reading books on iBooks. But ok, he gave me a download code, and I wanted to see what the heck he wrote.
What got downloaded to my iPad blew me away.
The book, "Hurricane Journey" ($3.99) which Edds co-Authored with writer/photographer Jeff Gammons (who did all of the publishing layout and content production) is the iPad equivalent of a "Coffee Table" book, which is stuffed full of the most amazing photographs and video of hurricanes and the damage that they can inflict that I have ever seen.
In the example below, different force levels on the Saffir-Simpson Scale are demonstrated using video that Edds has taken.
If you're wondering why there's no Category 5 shown, it's because when it was written, nobody on earth had managed to get a daytime video of one in action yet. Edds was the first to get it, some years later, in his coverage of typhoons in the Philippines, and he invited me to join him the next time he does. I have to admire such bravery, but I'm going to have to pass on his gracious offer.
All of this interactive content is combined with some truly amazing stories of how Edds routinely puts himself in harm's way, coupled with a tremendous amount of educational material about how hurricanes form, how powerful they can get, and how the National Hurricane Center collects data about them so people who live in the path of these dangerous storms can be warned before they hit.
The book is organized into six chapters -- The Lifecycle of a Hurricane, The Danger Zone, Flying Aboard the NOAA Hurricane Hunter Aircraft, two sections on Edds' experiences filming Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Katrina, and finally, a chapter on how to best prepare for and how to survive should you get caught in the path of a hurricane.
The entire 65-page landscape format e-book was produced in the iBooks Author program, which Apple released as part of its educational initiative.
When it was initially released, I criticized Apple because the program and Apple's EULA restricts developing textbooks for the iPad platform only. I also feel that the iPad is too expensive to use as textbooks for children, and they probably aren't durable enough for kids to be throwing around in their knapsacks every day.
I still think that Apple should open this tool up to producing content for other platforms, but after seeing what Edds and Gammons have created, I now truly understand just how powerful and useful a platform that iBooks can be, mainly when it is applied to applications such as this.
If you own an iPad and you live in an area that is frequently targeted by Tropical Storms, Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Tropical Cyclones, then you owe it to yourself to spend the $4 and buy this book.
I'll certainly be reading it cover to cover this weekend.