In his classic nonfiction book The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger tells the story of the fishing boat the Andrea Gail and her crew. Lost at sea in 1991, they were caught off the north-east coast of the USA in a super-storm created by an incredibly rare combination of three weather systems. At its peak, the storm had wind strengths in excess of 120 kilometres per hour, and it generated some of the largest waves ever recorded.
Few people took the weather warnings from the National Weather Service seriously. It was only once the true magnitude of the storm became apparent that people started reacting, with thousands along the eastern seaboard evacuating their homes.
Other than a few small pieces of debris, no trace of the Andrea Gail or her six crewmen was ever found.
This ‘perfect storm' killed another seven people and created widespread destruction on much of the eastern coastline, causing an estimated damage bill of $200 million.
It may seem strange to call something so destructive perfect but, in weather terms, this combination of conditions is so rare it has to be seen as miraculous. Sure, two weather systems occasionally merge together ...