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Isaac's Storm: The Drowning of Galveston, 8 September 1900 Hardcover – 2 Sep 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (2 Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857028414
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857028416
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.7 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 617,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

On September 8, 1900, a massive hurricane slammed into Galveston, Texas. A tidal surge of some four feet in as many seconds inundated the city, while the wind destroyed thousands of buildings. When the water and winds subsided, entire streets had disappeared and as many as 10,000 were dead--making this the worst natural disaster in America's history.

In Isaac's Storm, Erik Larson blends science and history to tell the story of Galveston, its people, and the hurricane that devastated them. Drawing from hundreds of personal reminiscences of the storm, Larson follows individuals through the fateful day and the storm's aftermath. There's Louisa Rollfing, who begged her husband August not to go into town the morning of the storm; the Ursuline Sisters at St. Mary's orphanage who tied their charges to lengths of clothesline to keep them together; Judson Palmer, who huddled in his bathroom with his family and neighbours, hoping to ride out the storm. At the centre of it all was Isaac Cline, employee of the nascent Weather Bureau, and his younger brother--and rival weatherman-- Joseph. Larson does an excellent job of piecing together Isaac's life and reveals that Isaac was not the quick- thinking hero he claimed to be after the storm ended. The storm itself, however, is the book's true protagonist--and Larson describes its nuances in horrific detail.

At times the prose is a touch too purple, but Larson is engaging and keeps the book's tempo rising in pace with the wind and waves. Overall, Isaac's Storm recaptures at a time when, standing in the first year of the century, Americans felt like they ruled the world--and that even the weather was no real threat to their supremacy. Nature proved them wrong. --Sunny Delaney


Gripping, informative and imaginative’
New Statesman

‘Roof slates became spinning blades… a timely and chillingly detailed reminder of what nature can do.’
Mail on Sunday

‘Mixing individual narratives of the townsfolk and a history of the Weather Bureau with terrific descriptions the evolving storm, Larson cooks up an awesome tale.‘
Daily Telegraph

‘Dickensian… A scholarly and factual book that reads like fiction.’

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It is rare indeed to find an author with the talent that Erik Larson has shown in writing this book. In writing historical accounts, many authors do a fine job of research and tell their story in a very readable manner, but seldom does an author do as well in both areas as does Larson. In reading this account of the great hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas in September of 1900 I was often reminded of David McCullough's riveting account of the Johnstown flood that preceded this disaster by eleven years. An author can't keep much higher company than that.
This is not only the story of a hurricane though, it is also the story of Isaac Cline and to some extent the story of Issac's employer the national weather bureau. As is often the case with men of science, Cline allowed himself to believe that science had an answer for everything and Mother Nature taught him a lesson in reality, the hard way. Larson explores Cline's mistakes and leaves the reader with no doubt that the head of the Galveston weather bureau bears some responsibility for the thousands of deaths caused by the hurricane. There is much more blame however to be shared by a group of smug bureaucrats that tried to discredit Cuban forecasters who had accurately predicted the hurricane's path. Cline accepted his responsibility while the others simply refused to admit error.
Larson takes the reader through Cline's career as well as the events leading up to the storm. The tension builds as the reader, who knows what is coming is then introduced to several citizens of Galveston. The author then leads the reader through the storm in riveting accounts told by survivors, especially those to whom he has introduced the reader earlier.
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Format: Hardcover
Having been fortunate enough to obtain an advance-release copy of Erik Larson's book "Isaac's Storm," I feel it is safe to say that it is a departure from the norm -- as far as books on Galveston and the Great 1900 Hurricane go. Most authors of books on Galveston and the Galveston Hurricane use notes taken by Isaac Cline (chief weather observer at Galveston in 1900) as their basis for their writings on the 1900 storm. Larson also uses Cline's personal notes, and those of many other survivors. However, he paints a vividly different scene than that any other book on Galveston I have come across. Larson is not afraid to express criticism of Cline and his actions prior to and after the storm. He is also quick to point out that Cline, prior to the 1900 storm, felt that Galveston did not need a seawall. In fact, he believed Galveston safe from any serious threats from storms. This factual book is a must for anyone interested in the history of the Island. The book is loaded with tons new information and new perspectives of this Island City ... a city which was poised for greatness at the turn of the century.
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Format: Paperback
This was an amazing book from start to finish ! It was logically put together in the style and fashion that Erik Larson has done with other books; History comes alive through the well researched characters and events before, during and after the Deadliest Hurricane in history. I was overwhelmed with the descriptive writings of how several of the prominent persons of Galveston spent their final moments as the storm surged and overtook their homes and business's. It was also a story, in hindsight, of how seemingly naive the weather service was and how ineffective it was in predicting the storm. It was the vanity of men and the arrogance of the time that permitted monumental mistakes. Also, no one appeared to be held accountable for the failures and mistakes that occurred. I have a new appreciation for storm warnings and the events of nature which offer predictions of what is to follow. This is a story that needed to be told, and a story that should be a must read for anyone who goes to sea or lives near a costal area. It provides a vivid dimension to the destructive power of storms and Hurricanes.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this as a job lot with eight other books, simply because I like the publisher, and was surprised to find that this was the one I sat down with first and read right through. It's a touch OTT in parts- the author shows remarkable knowledge of the individual psychologies of long dead people- but the narrative is gripping and the point of hubris, though rammed home, is fascinatingly made. A £16.99 book really needs more photographs than this to justify itself, but it's still good meaty reading if you enjoy the nasty- true- life- death genre (Perfect Storm; Into Thin Air etc).
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Format: Paperback
On September 8, 1900, a storm roared into Galveston, Texas - a storm that still has the dubious honor of causing U.S. History's greatest loss of human life due to natural disaster. I had heard very little, if anything about this tragedy or the circumstances leading to the egregious death toll, until very near its centennial. According to interviews in relation to the release of this book, this was Erik Larson's experience as well. It was only in doing research on another matter that he stumbled across descriptions of the Great Galveston Storm of 1900, and being an irrepressible weather hound, he was instantly obsessed. This is his readers' good fortune.

How the magnitude of this storm could have been so tragically misread is something that is still debated among meteorologists, but Mr. Larson shows quite clearly the confluence of human error, arrogance and politics that created an environment ripe for just such a catastrophe. Competing weather bureaus, the concern about causing "undue panic" only to have the storm be less severe than predicted (observers weren't even allowed to use the word "hurricane"), among other things, all added up to a situation that caused the deaths of between 6,000 and 10,000 people.

Along with the individual stories taken from oral histories of the survivors, which left me torn between tears and anger, I got a thorough, yet concise history of how hurricane prediction grew from mere observation of storms as they happened, to understanding of conditions that were conducive to a storm's creation. It is history and science, quickly-paced and very interesting; knowledge imparted before I was even aware I was learning something. Very sneaky, that Larson.

As much as I hate to use the phrase "reads like a novel," this book truly does.
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