Archive for October 28, 2014

ISAAC’S STORM BY ERIK LARSON

I just completed reading Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson published in 1999. This was my second reading of this impressive and informative work on the great hurricane which devastated Galveston in 1900.

I wanted to revisit this book during hurricane season. Looking back, it would have been more enriching read done the year Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi coast or Sandy the New Jersey coast and surrounding area. More on Sandy and my Seaside Heights connection in an upcoming post.

This book will give you an appreciation of the current state of storm tracking and weather forecasting. I recommend you read it to compare today’s weather service with that of the late 1800’s when storms appeared from nowhere unannounced with prediction dependent on inflated egos and politics. Larson does an excellent job delving into the competition between the American weather bureau stationed in Cuba and the Cuban forecasters; how they were at odds on the future of the storm passing Cuba. The Cubans speculated that the storm would head into the Gulf of Mexico and impact Galveston and the Americans that it would veer north along the Atlantic coast discounting the accumulated experience of the Cubans. The competition between the two groups was such that the Cubans were forbidden to communicate their forecasts by telegram the Washington. At the same time, the Americans were forbidden to use the word hurricane in a forecast unless it was a certainty and Washington granted permission. The result of this egocentric approach was a storm of monumental proportions taking Galveston by surprise and claiming more than 6000 lives.

The title of the book is referring to the fact that the name of the head of the Galveston weather bureau was Isaac Cline. In addition to an observer to the storm he was also a victim losing his house and pregnant wife. Larson does an excellent job of following Cline and other Galveston residents through the horror and devastation. He also goes into great detail on the formation and development of a hurricane.

I am a huge fan of Erik Larson’s work, especially this gripping tale of death and destruction in Galveston in 1900.

October 28, 2014 at 3:22 am 1 comment


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