Review | Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

Erik Larson (1999)

On November 8, 1900 a devastating hurricane surprised the Gulf Coast and wiped out much of Galveston Texas, which up to that time had been a thriving community, rivaling Houston as the state’s most important city. The hurricane of 1900 changed the course of this city forever, as well as the study of weather prediction and hurricanes.

Isaac Cline was a weatherman in Galveston employed by the fledgling national Weather Bureau, and it’s through his perspective that much of the story is told. His failure to predict the intensity and impact of the storm, along with the Weather Bureau’s disregard of Cuba’s meteorological expertise and repeated warnings, resulted in death and destruction unprecedented on American soil to this day.

Though a bit slow going at first–too much science, not enough storm maybe (though the section tracing the storm’s genesis in Africa was fascinating)–Issac’s Storm becomes a page-turner once it comes to relating the days before, during and after this devastating event. Here the book becomes a series of individual dramas of survival and loss, among them Cline and his family. It’s an interesting personal story about a major weather event that we rarely hear about today.

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