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Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the…

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Erik Larson

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2,400762,592 (4.03)212
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. This books recalls the Hurricane that wiped out Galveston Texas in 1900. I didn't know (and most people don;t) that this was the worst natural disaster in American history for loss of life: 6000 people perished. ( )
  Mr.Cartier | Apr 19, 2012 |
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Both my adult son and I would put Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm on our lists of top nonfiction books that everyone should read. We often refer to it in conversations. Not only is it about the devastating hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900, but all of the mistakes made that prevented any prediction of a hurricane. It's a brief history of weather forecasting. It's about how hubris and ambition can sometimes prevent accurate gathering of data. It's about how the combination of personalities in the right place allowed the existence of an hurricane to be basically ignored until it made landfall and wiped out an entire city. It's about the deception and misinformation some people perpetrated in order to cover up their errors in the aftermath. It is a nonfiction book with a story so compelling that it reads like fiction. It's a book any weather geek or disaster freak will love.

Now that I've established that I love this book, let me also add that Erik Larson is a good writer. Often in nonfiction books a case can be made that there are "boring" parts, sections of the book that move too slowly, especially when compared to a fiction book. It's a difficult balance to pass along accurate information, historically or technically, while keeping the book itself satisfying and interesting. In Isaac's Storm Erik Larsen was pitch-perfect. Isaac's Storm is Very Highly Recommended - one of the best. http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
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  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
I really enjoyed this book. One of my favorite things about history is understanding how certain details of life, details that we might not otherwise consider particularly important, made a huge difference in the outcome of historic situations.

Also, as someone who is not familiar with Galveston, or the Gulf Coast at all, it was very interesting to learn the history of a place that I had never learned about before. ( )
  magerber | Feb 22, 2016 |
Didn't actually finish this one - got bogged down in too much detail/descriptions not as much action as in his other books. ( )
  KylaS | Feb 18, 2016 |
5***** and a ❤

What an extraordinary read - a page-turner about weather! But then, the hurricane that destroyed Galveston was the most deadly disaster to ever strike the United States (and still is). Larson brings the drama to life while conveying the calm of ignorance and the unbelievable loss afterwards. Very well researched. The personal stories really brought it to life. There is some detailed scientific data here, but the basic plot is gripping.

I was lucky to hear Larson speak when he was on the book tour. He talked specifically about the scene when the water surges from ankle-deep to shoulder-deep in a moment, and he(Larson) thought - "My children are all under 4 feet tall; they would have drowned." Larson personalized the story by giving this thought (and others) to Isaac himself.

(I couldn't help but think of this book in 2008 with Hurricane Ike bearing down on Galveston, yet again.) ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 9, 2016 |
If you like to read about weather phenomena you may very well like this book. I thought the details about what weather forecasting was like at the turn of the century were a little dull but the research that went into this book is impeccable. This is about a hurricane that took place in Galveston, Texas in Sept. 1900. Due to bad decisions made on the part of weather forecastors at the time, or rather one certain weather forecaster, thousands of lives were lost that may have been saved. ( )
  Koren56 | Feb 4, 2016 |
September 8, 1900, strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds greeted
Galveston that morning.
Hours later, the deadliest hurricane in history completely submerged the town and killed over 6,000 people.
Mankind versus the changeable, unrelenting hand of nature.

"A chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude...Isaac's Kline's story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature" (from synopsis) ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 24, 2016 |
The hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas, on September 8th, 1900, still stands as the country's deadliest natural disaster. At least 6000 people died in the storm and fully 1/3 of the city was destroyed. The chief of the Galveston weather bureau, Isaac Cline, did not realize until much too late just how large the tropical storm was to be. Unfortunately, much of the vital information that should have been telegraphed to Cline's office was never to reach him as the US and Cuba were at odds over the accuracy of their forecasts. The US Weather Bureau discontinued all contact with its Cuban counterpart even though the Cuban forecasters had dealt with these dangerous storms on a much more frequent basis. Although the Cubans realized the storm was headed directly for the Texas coast the US bureau believed that the hurricane was destined to crawl up the east coast and into the North Atlantic. At first the residents of Galveston were excited about the storm and many made their way to the beaches to watch the rising waves and threatening skies. As the wind began to shriek and the tides to surge into the town, people sought the safety of their 2- and 3-story homes built on sturdy piling stilts. Houses were quickly swept away in the rising flood waters and thousands of people were killed. Isaac himself lost his wife and his home to a storm that he did not predict.

This is another great book by Erik Larson and I found it very interesting. I am always astounded at the amount of research that goes into such an undertaking and this one began with the birth of the fledgling Weather Bureau established during the Spanish-American war as a way to protect our naval fleet from killer storms. The political climate of the era and the petty jealousies between government departments as well as between Isaac and his brother Joseph are well documented. Larson brings the horror and the tragedy of September 8, 1900, unflinchingly to the reader. Highly recommended.
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  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
Well i knew very little of storm that devastated Galveston in 1900. This books is the tale of of Isaac Cline who was the local meteorologist in Galveston at the time. Cuba tried to warn the US of the approaching hurricane but the American blamed them for trying to create terror and fear. Once the storm had completely wiped out Galveston the rebuilding process began. ( )
  JWarrenBenton | Jan 4, 2016 |
Well i knew very little of storm that devastated Galveston in 1900. This books is the tale of of Isaac Cline who was the local meteorologist in Galveston at the time. Cuba tried to warn the US of the approaching hurricane but the American blamed them for trying to create terror and fear. Once the storm had completely wiped out Galveston the rebuilding process began. ( )
  JWarrenBenton | Jan 4, 2016 |
I've been a Larson devotee since I discovered Devil in the White City. Once again he makes something that initially seems like a dull topic (history of weather?)in to a spell binding read. I was so attached to the characters that my heart broke for them all in the end. Larson has an incredible ability to draw his reader into the time period. He'll be a favorite of mine for a long time. ( )
  sscarllet | Dec 15, 2015 |
I dunno. I felt like there was something missing about this book, but I can't really put my finger on what it was. ( )
  lyrrael | Oct 17, 2015 |
Let me preface by saying, if you haven't read [b:The Devil in the White City|21996|The Devil in the White City Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America|Erik Larson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312066724s/21996.jpg|3486041], pick that one up! Having said that, this book is an exhilarating and quick read. Like in DWC, the author gets lost in the details some of the time. It helps me appreciate the sheer volume of research that goes into these kinds of books. But even the masters have difficulty sometimes taking a step back and deciding which pieces in the vast, neverending puzzle actually advance the narrative. I think natural disasters in general will always thrill because they are at once deadly and innocent. This book will appeal to nerds interested in the mechanics of cyclone formation, as well as history buffs curious about some of history's major storms and the battles they perhaps influenced or postponed, and general readers boggled by the image of a grown man leaping out of a window to use the wall of his collapsing house as a raft when the storm waters rise up above the second story of his own house. Both facts are equally compelling: that to this day, the Galveston storm of September 1900 holds the casualty record for American natural disasters, and that people lived to tell about it in detailed notes and journals. ( )
  Victor_A_Davis | Sep 18, 2015 |
Love the detail. ( )
  ibkennedy | Aug 16, 2015 |
After reading Devil in White City – and becoming disturbed that such people as the protagonist existed – I resolved to read more books by Eric Larson. I did some research and discovered he wrote Isaac’s Storm about the deadliest hurricane in history that struck Galveston in 1900. There is a particular significance to reading about hurricanes to me – I was born two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, in North Carolina, and grew up scampering across the white, hot sands and tide pools of the Carolina coast. Hurricanes were a yearly event for us, and exciting. Even when we sought shelter away from our house and there was no electricity, my parents made it seem like a fun camping trip.

And then, I moved to Houston in 1990, and then, in 2009, Hurricane Ike struck our coast. I wasn’t worried, even as I hunkered down in my third-floor apartment with the winds bowing the windowpanes. I wasn’t worried, even as the electricity flickered and then plunged everything in darkness. I wasn’t worried until two days later, when I learned of the devastation and unknown timeframe for receiving basic services again. Despite the lessons from previous hurricanes, we were all not prepared for Ike, and as the hot, humid days stretched on, I began to despair of ever watching TV, feeling the cool winds of the A/C, or talking on the phone again. 10 days ambled by before we got our electricity back, but I have still yet to recover from those dank, dark nights and hungry days.

So, reading Isaac’s Storm was good for me; it showed me that the devastation could be worse. It showed me that we were lucky to at least know the storm’s power and potential, even if we were not prepared for it. It showed me the human nuances and impacts Mother Nature wreaks on our vanity.

Isaac Cline was the foremost meteorologist for the US Weather Bureau stationed in Galveston; back in 1900, with no satellites to watch over the Earth, weathermen were akin to snake oil salesman. The people of Galveston had no need to suspect that the 1900 storm was any different than other storms—but it was. A deadly storm surge quickly overtook over half the island, burying houses, businesses, and people in a rage of frothing water. Houses were swept right off their foundations and children, separated from their mothers, screamed in horror. Larson vividly paints a picture of utter destruction and chaos; as a mother, it is particularly difficult to read about the deaths of children. However, Larson also interjects much-needed anecdotes of heroism and generosity in the time of the storm and thereafter.

Much of the blame, Larson insinuates (or rather practically outright screams), lies with the Bureau itself, locked in a political battle of the wills with Cuba. If only there wasn’t a ban on telegraphs or information from the Cuban meteorologists, he contends, then lives could have been saved, as the Cubans understood this 1900 storm was different than others. It’s an important lesson that resonates today, in this time of maybe-we-Cuba-maybe-we-don’t.

Overall, don’t miss any of Larson’s works, but in particular—don’t miss this one. ( )
  amandacb | Apr 29, 2015 |
I remember the 1961 Galveston hurricane and the reports on television news by a young Dan Rather. Isaac's Storm is about the 1900 hurricane and the early days of what is now the National Weather Service. In 1900, the weather service was trying to introduce prediction into American life. Unfortunately, the early leaders - as well as Isaac Cline - were men convinced of their absolute rightness and ability. This book is not only the story of the 1900 Galveston hurricane, but also the sad tale of what happens when men of hubris refuse to listen to others. I am thinking here of the forecasters in Cuba who understood hurricanes quite well. I don't know if it was simply racism or xenophobia, but not paying attention was fatal for Galveston. I'm not sure destruction would have been prevented, but the city could have been evacuated.

I can't say this was an enjoyable read, but it certainly was a good one. ( )
2 vote Maya47Bob46 | Mar 15, 2015 |
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.
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 devastating personal tragedy.
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1 vote | cm37107 | Mar 5, 2015 |
I really liked The Devil in the White City, but this one is just tooooo boring to keep going. I couldn't even get 1/3 of the way through it. It would be interesting if he could stay focused on the events in Galveston, but he's all over the place with boring bureaucratic history and stuff from hundreds of years ago. A real snooze inducer. ( )
1 vote TheJeanette | Dec 2, 2014 |
This is an excellent telling of the events that came together with the September Hurricane of 1900 to completely devastate the city of Galveston, Texas. Isaac Cline was the city's chief meteorologist, but he was guided and influenced by his superiors in much of what he saw and did. Larson does an excellent job of giving us the background of the weather service, Isaac's training and the man himself, and his family, neighbors, and friends who are affected by all that unfolds. Recommended. ( )
1 vote whymaggiemay | Jul 20, 2014 |
Fascinating account of the 1900 hurricane in Galveston TX, entwined with the background story of the local meteorologist Isaac Cline and meteorology in general at the turn of the century. ( )
1 vote tloeffler | Jul 7, 2014 |
This had a lot of fascinating things about the storm and the confidence of the time in their forecasting and ability to weather severe storms. Negatives: Some of the narrative about Isaac Cline could have been cut back and the author jumped around a bit too much when he told individual stories so when he returned to give an update on people it was hard to remember who was who. Overall, very informative and a good history of one part of the U.S. ( )
1 vote creynolds | May 21, 2014 |
In 1900, one of the deadliest hurricanes in American history leveled the city of Galveston, Texas. This story is as much about the weather as it is about the troubled beginnings of the National Weather Bureau and turn-of-the-century American culture in general. The tale is intricately woven and exquisitely detailed, blunt and unflinchingly tragic but never gratuitous. It's fascinating and maddening and hard to put down. I wish my edition had photographs in it, especially since the text makes so many references to them, but to be honest I was able to picture most of it in my mind without any trouble. This was written before Katrina; I wonder how it would have been different after, with that so fresh in the mind for comparison. Anyone with an interest in severe weather or the time period would get quite a lot out of this one. Lucky for me, I happen to have an interest in both. ( )
1 vote melydia | May 16, 2014 |
Isaac's Storm / Erik Larson
4.5 stars

September 8, 1900 in Galveston, Texas, Isaac Cline was the “weatherman”. The U.S. Weather Bureau knew a storm would hit, but no one (well, none of the Americans) had any idea how severe the hurricane would be.

The book starts with a combination of Isaac's life and some weather history mixed in. This part was a little bit slower, but once the hurricane hit, wow! The suspense was incredible! I did not want to put the book down. Like with Larsen's other books, his nonfiction reads like fiction. I think the hurricane and the aftermath are enough to raise my rating to above 4 stars, so 4-1/2 stars from me! ( )
1 vote LibraryCin | Jan 10, 2014 |
Full of weaselly words and phrases that let the author get away with making up whatever he wants to say in this alleged history. I'm not a fan of fictionalized history presented as fact. ( )
  breic3 | Nov 20, 2013 |
Larson's book The Devil in the White City was good enough to make my list of 100 Favorite Books of All Time, so I had high hopes for this book. This is of narrative nonfiction that tells the biography of meteorologist Isaac Cline and the birth of the National Weather Service. Cline was on duty in Gavelston, Texas in September 1900 when that city was hit by a hurricane leading to one of the most deadly natural disasters in American history. The life of Cline and the vivid firsthand accounts of the hurricane are fascinating, but overall I felt this book wasn't a very interesting addiction to the the popular history genre.
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1 vote Othemts | Nov 6, 2013 |
I read this book almost exactly one year after Hurricane Sandy, and was struck by the similarities -- not of the storms, but of our human hubris in facing them. We can look back on the technology of a century ago and discount it as primitive, and wonder why they people didn't pay more attention to the weather and leave. Bu what will our children a hundred years from now think about our dependence on what will seem to them primitive technology. It's a great way to get a sense of history. I would have like to see more personal biographical information about Isaac and his family, but I suppose that there's not really a lot available on an "average" guy, especially one who lost everything he would have been saving in his middle age. Fascinating book, quick read, and very worthwhile. ( )
1 vote TerriBooks | Oct 18, 2013 |
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