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Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History Paperback – July 11, 2000
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“A gripping account ... fascinating to its core, and all the more compelling for being true.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Gripping ... the Jaws of hurricane yarns.” —The Washington Post
"The best storm book I've read, consumed mostly in twenty-four hours; these pages filled me with dread. Days later, I am still glancing out the window nervously. A well-told story." —Daniel Hays, author of My Old Man and the Sea
"Isaac's Storm so fully swept me away into another place, another time that I didn't want it to end. I braced myself from the monstrous winds, recoiled in shock at the sight of flailing children floating by, and shook my head at the hubris of our scientists who were so convinced that they had the weather all figured out. Erik Larson's writing is luminous, the story absolutely gripping. If there is one book to read as we enter a new millennium, it's Isaac's Storm, a tale that reminds us that there are forces at work out there well beyond our control, and maybe even well beyond our understanding." —Alex Kotlowitz, author of The Other Side of the River and There Are No Children Here
"There is electricity in these pages, from the crackling wit and intelligence of the prose to the thrillingly described terrors of natural mayhem and unprecedented destruction. Though brimming with the subtleties of human nature, the nuances of history, and the poetry of landscapes, Isaac's Storm still might best be described as a sheer page turner." —Melissa Faye Greene, author of Praying for Sheetrock and The Temple Bombing
"Superb…. Larson has made [Isaac] Cline, turn-of-the-century Galveston, and the Great Hurricane live again." —The Wall Stret Journal
"Erik Laron's accomplishment is to have made this great-storm story a very human one —thanks to his use of the large number of survivors' accounts—without ignoring the hurricane itself." —The Boston Globe
"Vividly captures the devastation." —Newsday
"This brilliant exploration of the hurrican's deadly force...tracks the gathering storm as if it were a character…. Larson has the storyteller's gift of keeping the reader spellbound." —The Times-Picayune
"With consumate narrative skill and insight into turn-of-the-century American culture…. Larson's story is about the folly of all who believe that man can master or outwit the forces of nature." —The News & Observer
"A powerful story ... a classic tale of mankind versus nature." —The Christian Science Monitor
From the Inside Flap
September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devestating personal tragedy.
Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.
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I have read most of Larson's books on historical events and have never been disappointed. Issac's Storm brought home to me the destructive power of a hurricane and the fact that we are blessed today by superb forecasting technology and tracking of storms. Living by the Gulf of Mexico, I am always anxious when a storm of any kind, is forecasted by the National weather services, and our local weather people. I have lived through several category 1 storms. I built my house to withstand up to a category 4 storm and possibly a category 5. I would not sit out a storm forecasted at a 2 or higher.
In the case of Issac's storm in 1900, that hit Galveston, Texas, it was estimated to be close to a category 5. at that time the National Weather Service was a budding and infant service dependent on oral relays of information from ships at sea or island in the Caribbean, specifically Cuba and other smaller Islands. Ship to shore telegraph was still too new to be of help leaving word of mouth by the sea captains. once information was obtained about a gathering storm, appropriate warnings were supposed to be communicated to the residents of the probable impact sites.
Unfortunately, politics always comes into play especially with a budding service whose reputation was at risk and its confidence by the public and the need for funding. The National Weather Service had weather reporting stations at storm vulnerable locations throughout the United States and representatives were constantly communicating barometric, temperature and wind calculations to the Weather Service's headquarters in Washington. Because of both politics and funding issues the word "hurricane" was forbidden to be communicated because of the variable shifts in weather fronts.
Forecasting was more of an art than a scientific prediction. The weather chief in Galveston was both and educated weather person as well as being a physician. His name was Issac Cline and he sensed the coming storm but was on delicate territory in expressing the need for greater danger to the residents of Galveston whose topography was only about five feet above sea level and while local politicians talked about a sea wall because of previous storms, the idea was put into a bureaucratic filing drawer.
Erik Larson lays out a compelling story based on his usual and extensive research and puts the reader into the minds of the characters in the book, which were all real people. The reader will feel the growing tensions of the arriving storm and feel the wind, rain and flood of
Galveston. The reader will feel pity for Issac Cline and disgust for his bosses in Washington DC.
Normally because of our up to the minute forecasting and tracking of hurricanes we feel great comfort and have the time and ability to prepare and evacuate if necessary. The number of casualties and deaths as described by Larson are shocking and good and bad of humanity is clearly demonstrated. l
In those days they did not "name" storms and I suppose the author named it Issac's storm because of his responsibility as a employee of the National Weather Bureau and the amount of personal blame that would be open to public criticism. The book was well written and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy history presented, as Larson so skillfully does in each of his works. I do not hesitate to award five stars to this work.
If you enjoy non-fiction, you need to read Erik Larson’s books.
If you don’t enjoy non-fiction, you need to read Erik Larson’s books. :)
But for real internet, he is one author who can turn anyone into a non-fiction reader. Not only because he’s an excellent and engaging writer, but he writes about historical episodes that are completely fascinating, like my book club’s recent read: Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History.
Knowing Texas as it is in 2014, it’s pretty mind-boggling to think at one point in history Galveston was battling Houston for first place in, well, anything. It truly put in perspective what a devastating storm can do to alter history.
“If there were a Pulitzer for bleak irony, however, it would go to the News for its Saturday-morning report on one of the most important local stories of the year—the Galveston count of the 1900 U.S. census, which the newspaper had first announced on Friday. The news was excellent: Over the last decade of the nineteenth century, the city’s population had increased by 29.93 percent, the highest growth rate of any southern city counted so far.”
The first half gives a lot of background. From the history of hurricanes to the cities involved, the background and history lay a solid foundation not only of the characters, but how weather forecasting was handled in different parts of the world. I wasn’t expecting that much background, but it gives a more broader understanding of how big this storm was and the rippling effects.
When the book began to dive into that fateful day of the hurricane, I couldn't put the book down. It’s an intense tale to read, but I found I couldn’t pull myself away from the pages.
Dealing with a natural disaster is going to bring gut-wrenching facts (I did have to stop reading for a while after the part about the destruction of an orphanage and the lives lost, i.e. kids), but even with painful truths of the story, Larson is able to deliver without being overwhelming or too descriptive. It’s no easy task, but one he has mastered.
I couldn’t help but wonder why did people stay? If water is filling up and reaching my steps…y’all I’m out! This story (and people’s stubbornness, pride, fear, whatever), is another fascinating aspect of the book. It’s just sad to think that it caused many people their lives.
I think I like In the Garden of Beasts a bit more, but it’s a close one. Both are intriguing stories and written fantastically.
Anyone else a Larson fan? I’m so excited he has a new book coming out soon!! Are you a big non-fiction reader?
Originally posted at http://booksandbeverages.org/2014/09/26/isaacs-storm-man-time-deadliest-hurricane-history-erik-larson-book-review