Over the Christmas break, I had a little extra time to snuggle in and finish a book! With a couple of uninterrupted hours, I made great progress, and it only took me a couple of weeks to finish Isaac’s Storm, by Erik Larson. If the name Erik Larson sounds familiar, it is probably because he wrote the well known book, Devil in the White City, about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and H.H. Holmes, the serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to his “Murder Castle.”
Larson has written several other books, and while I haven’t read them (I did read Devil in the White City though), they look interesting and well researched. Isaac’s Storm is no different. It is the story of the Galveston Hurricane in 1900, a devastating hurricane that struck Galveston, TX in September 1900, killing 6000-12,000 people (estimates vary widely for several reasons). The story is told through the eyes of Isaac Cline, the meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau who was stationed in Galveston.
Larson uses Weather Bureau reports, telegrams and letters from survivors to tell the story of the days leading up to the storm, the terror of the hurricane’s strike on the city, and the tragic aftermath, when survivors learned who lived and who didn’t. Sadly, the storm killed about 20% of the population of Galveston. He also explains in detail what scientists knew and did not know at the time about hurricanes and their patterns, and explores the mistakes that were made by the players along the way.
Larson certainly doesn’t make Isaac Cline or the other men at the Weather Bureau into saints; instead he paints a picture of the serious mistakes that were made before the storm struck. He explores the reality that the outcome could have been very different if a few men had been a bit less sure of themselves.
It is a worthwhile read and it is a quick read. So if you have a chance, be sure to check it out.