Books: Blow by Blow

A WIND TO SHAKE THE WORLD

by EVERETT S. ALLEN 370 pages. Little, Brown. $10.

On Sept. 21, 1938, seven years before the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima, a hurricane descended with almost as little warning upon the northeast coastline of the U.S. Until then the land-lubbing public had known of "gales," "tempests," "blows," even "a bit of weather." But "hurricane" was a new and terrible escalation of apocalyptic power in the popular consciousness.

During a few hours, 680 people were killed and $400 million worth of what is abstractly known as "property damage"...