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Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History [Kindle Edition]

Erik Larson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (625 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.96 (37%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

At the dawn of the twentieth century, a great confidence suffused America. Isaac Cline was one of the era's new men, a scientist who believed he knew all there was to know about the motion of clouds and the behavior of storms. The idea that a hurricane could damage the city of Galveston, Texas, where he was based, was to him preposterous, "an absurd delusion." It was 1900, a year when America felt bigger and stronger than ever before. Nothing in nature could hobble the gleaming city of Galveston, then a magical place that seemed destined to become the New York of the Gulf.

That August, a strange, prolonged heat wave gripped the nation and killed scores of people in New York and Chicago. Odd things seemed to happen everywhere: A plague of crickets engulfed Waco. The Bering Glacier began to shrink. Rain fell on Galveston with greater intensity than anyone could remember. Far away, in Africa, immense thunderstorms blossomed over the city of Dakar, and great currents of wind converged. A wave of atmospheric turbulence slipped from the coast of western Africa. Most such waves faded quickly. This one did not.

In Cuba, America's overconfidence was made all too obvious by the Weather Bureau's obsession with controlling hurricane forecasts, even though Cuba's indigenous weathermen had pioneered hurricane science. As the bureau's forecasters assured the nation that all was calm in the Caribbean, Cuba's own weathermen fretted about ominous signs in the sky. A curious stillness gripped Antigua. Only a few unlucky sea captains discovered that the storm had achieved an intensity no man alive had ever experienced.

In Galveston, reassured by Cline's belief that no hurricane could seriously damage the city, there was celebration. Children played in the rising water. Hundreds of people gathered at the beach to marvel at the fantastically tall waves and gorgeous pink sky, until the surf began ripping the city's beloved beachfront apart. Within the next few hours Galveston would endure a hurricane that to this day remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster. In Galveston alone at least 6,000 people, possibly as many as 10,000, would lose their lives, a number far greater than the combined death toll of the Johnstown Flood and 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

And Isaac Cline would experience his own unbearable loss.

Meticulously researched and vividly written, Isaac's Storm is based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms. Ultimately, however, it is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last great uncontrollable force. As such, Isaac's Storm carries a warning for our time.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Reading in his signature dispassionate style, narrator Edward Herrmann brings an eerie calm to this powerful chronicle of the deadliest storm ever to hit the United States--a huge and terribly destructive hurricane that struck land near Galveston, Texas in September of 1900. In this abridged recording, Author Erik Larson re-creates the events leading up to the disaster in astonishing detail, tracing the thoughts and actions of Isaac Cline, a scientist with America's burgeoning U.S. Weather Bureau. Cline's unwavering confidence--"In an age of scientific certainty one could not allow one's judgment to be clouded..."--blinds the meteorologist to the deadly onslaught about to be unleashed. Herrmann's calculated performance reflects the impending doom and dangers inherent to an unquestioned and absolute faith in science. (Running time: 5 hours, 4 CDs) --George Laney

From Publishers Weekly

Torqued by drama and taut with suspense, this absorbing narrative of the 1900 hurricane that inundated Galveston, Tex., conveys the sudden, cruel power of the deadliest natural disaster in American history. Told largely from the perspective of Isaac Cline, the senior U.S. Weather Bureau official in Galveston at the time, the story considers an era when "the hubris of men led them to believe they could disregard even nature itself." As barometers plummet and wind gauges are plucked from their moorings, Larson (Lethal Passage) cuts cinematically from the eerie "eyewall" of the hurricane to the mundane hubbub of a lunchroom moments before it capitulates to the arriving winds, from the neat pirouette of Cline's house amid rising waters to the bridge of the steamship Pensacola, tossed like flotsam on the roiling seas. Most intriguingly, Larson details the mistakes that led bureau officials to dismiss warnings about the storm, which killed over 6000 and destroyed a third of the island city. The government's weather forecasting arm registered not only temperature and humidity but also political climate, civic boosterism and even sibling rivalries. America's patronizing stance toward Cuba, for instance, shut down forecasts from Cuban meteorologists, who had accurately predicted the Galveston storm's course and true scale, even as U.S. weather officials issued mollifying bulletins calling for mere rain and high winds. Larson expertly captures the power of the storm itself and the ironic, often catastrophic consequences of the unpredictable intersection of natural force and human choice. Major ad/promo; author tour; simultaneous Random House audio; foreign rights sold in Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan and the U.K. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2030 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375708278
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 19, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005PRJNCY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,154 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
277 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Loved It January 2, 2000
Format:Hardcover
I've been a meteorologist for 20 years. Trained by Dr Bill Gray, I've walked in the eye of three hurricanes and flown in they eye of one. One recent book interest has been adventure stories including THE PERFECT STORM, INTO THIN AIR, ENDURANCE, etc. I had shyed away from ISSAC'S STORM because I couldn't imagine what Larson could tell me I didn't already know about the 1900 disaster at Galveston. I shouldn't have waited. Even the most seasoned weather geek will learn from this book. Like Carl Sagan, Larson has a knack for putting complex concepts in layman terms. I took away new simple descriptions of tropical meteorological concepts. However, that is not the genius of this book. Erik Larson did a wonderful job piecing together thousands of bits of information and crafting it all into a gripping read. What's missing? Photographs. Like SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA, this book is screaming for a companion book of photos. Eric said he waded through over 4,000; 250 of the best would make a super addition to this treatise. Rick Taylor, vorticity@aol.com
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141 of 145 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Are there other folks out there who enjoy reading true accounts of someone else's misfortune, especially if that misfortunate involves a titanic, unstoppable force of nature? A few, really good examples of this true-life disaster genre that I've read over the years are: "The Earth Shook - The Sky Burned" (San Francisco Earthquake)"; "The Coming Plague" (newly emerging diseases); "Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals" (doomed on Lake Superior, etc.); "Rats, Lice, and History" (a biography of typhus); and "Isaac's Storm" (the Galveston hurricane of 1900).
Erik Larson's book on the deadliest hurricane in history has two main focal points: the hurricane itself; and the human drama of Isaac Cline, the Galveston meteorologist who failed to predict the intensity of the storm. The book meanders through occasional dry stretches of Isaac's pre-storm biography, and through the history of the U.S. Weather Bureau (they were interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the storm), but once it focuses on the events of September 8, 1900 and beyond, I wasn't able to set "Isaac's Storm" down. Especially compelling are the eerie descriptions of what it's like to sail through the eye of a hurricane, and of course the narrative (from the viewpoints of several survivors) of what it was like to be in Galveston before, during, and after the storm. If you are afraid of storms or of water, you might not want to read this book because Erik Larson puts you right there when the storm debris is caving in the side of your house, or when the "tide suddenly rises fully four feet at one bound".
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mother Nature and human nature collide. October 14, 1999
Format:Hardcover
Larsen's book is a true account of not only the physical damage a severe hurricane can bring but also how human error (read: stubborness) can cause just as much damage. "Isaac's Storm" chronicles the Galveston hurricane of 1900. Larsen ably follows the path of the hurricane and the paths of the survivors and non-survivors. I enjoyed Larsen's description of the anatomy of a storm, tracing one from the west coast of Africa to possible destruction on the other side of the Atlantic. As I read, I feared the description would get too scientific to follow. Larsen gently leads through the stages of the storm and takes time to explain what is happening and why. Equally fascinating is the pride the people of 1900 exhibit. Consider: 1) A storm would never cross the Gulf of Mexico and strike Galveston. 2) The U.S. Weather Bureau was convinced that Cubans could not forecast a hurricane and caught off all weather warnings from Cuba. 3) Only Washington could declare the storm a "hurricane". The local forecaster (who was dealing with the wind, rain, etc.) could not. I found this book enjoyable, historical and a little chilling. I may have also learned a little more about all of us.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an absolute page turner December 13, 1999
Format:Hardcover
I went in to work sleepy-eyed quite a few mornings because I'm a slow reader and did not want to put this one down. It's a very clever combination of distilled eye-witness accounts, scientific and historical fact, memoirs and conjecture. I did not find the lack of photographs to be a problem, because the author portrays images wonderfully with words. The narrative builds gradually, like a good suspense novel; in the end, the horror of the event is very much evident in the narrative and the memories of those who survived the hurricane of 1900. The story has essentially the same fascination as that of the Titanic. Disaster occurred, and much of it could have been averted had human beings behaved differently. The difference is that this story has not been told repeatedly and does not focus on prominent citizens of the nation. Isaac's Storm, in the right hands, would make a terrific movie. In many ways, this books succeeds in taking the reader back to the year 1900. History at its best.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Issac's Storm comes up a little short November 26, 1999
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Overall this was an engaging account of a huge human disaster. The author manages to relate the failings and arrogance of the meteorologists who supposedly were responsible for tracking this storm. Their ability to allow their own sense of importance to overshadow scientific objectivity is unforgivable. The accounts of the human losses and acts of heroism are extremely moving; the description of workers finding the orphans buried in sand tied together with clothesline was particularly upsetting.
The book itself is well written but for my taste was rather thin on the science alongside the human story. In the earlier chapters, there are sections devoted to the storm itself, but these disappear as the account develops. Most surprising is the lack of inclusion of any photographs from the time. This, and the lack of a decent map, leaves the reader unable to fully comprehend the aftermath of the storm.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly written Hurricane Story
Having lived in Florida most of my life and having weathered many hurricane I really enjoyed this superbly written and very well researched account of this hurricane.
Published 5 days ago by Bruce Burkard
5.0 out of 5 stars Eric Larson is a master of telling the story while ...
Eric Larson is a master of telling the story while tracking history. Most fascinating to me is the way, even knowing the outcome in advance of page one, I am on tenterhooks as the... Read more
Published 6 days ago by K Wolfington
3.0 out of 5 stars review
Very interesting book. Not quite up to the prose of some of his other works, but Larson does have a talent for bringing a historical event to life.
Published 8 days ago by Keith Mc
4.0 out of 5 stars seeing the future by looking at the past
Larson does a great job of retelling history as though it were a novel so you are watching a movie not a documentary. Read more
Published 10 days ago by J. Kuchta
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fantastic history of a time before I was born.
Published 13 days ago by Joe Citizen
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful information about powerful storms and how they form
Wonderful information about powerful storms and how they form. Isaac was complex man with a huge ego. Both he and his brother were pioneers in weather forecasting.
Published 16 days ago by Brenda
4.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoy Erik Larsons' books
Interesting read- a piece of history that I never knew about. I really enjoy Erik Larsons' books. I had never heard about this horrible storm and I hate to admit it - but I didn't... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Deborah Cairns
1.0 out of 5 stars The story as it was told was so disorganized and ...
The story as it was told was so disorganized and jumped all over the place, that I could not keep track of what was happening when. Read more
Published 22 days ago by MikenSueNY
5.0 out of 5 stars A great piece of historical fiction
A great piece of historical fiction. It makes you think about the way people had to live before we had technology to help us track and forecast the weather. Read more
Published 22 days ago by NoGiftsPlease
4.0 out of 5 stars School reading list
Interesting history
Published 22 days ago by joyce casey
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