Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, written by Erik Larsen, is a book which may very well be called one-of-a-kind, as it describes one of the most disastrous of the natural calamities of the world-the Galveston hurricane of 1900 and the events which precede it. The author has carefully analyzed the hurricane and has scrutinized the impact caused by the actions of several people prior to the hurricane which ultimately resulted in massive destruction. He has pointed out with precision how the wrongful thought processes of that time led to such a tragedy.
The author has pointed out the fact that the thoughtless actions of some men are mostly to blame for the tragedy. At that time, Galveston had been competing with Houston in the race to become the most successful town in all of Texas. However, one of the main barriers in this race was the fact that Houston was a coastal town, and had several low-lying areas near the Gulf Coast, making it liable to floods. The author points out how, in the aim to get ahead of Houston, the residents of Galveston, and the meteorological department, completely turned a blind eye to this fact.
The meteorological department of Galveston, Texas was headed by Isaac Cline, who was well-known for his reliable forecasts of the weather. He allowed himself to believe that he was in control of Mother Nature, and published an article which stated that it was impossible that a hurricane would ever strike the town of Galveston.
The U.S. Weather Bureau had strictly forbidden weather communications with the meteorological department of Cuba, as they were under the impression that Cuba was attempting to challenge their predictions. Cuba however, possessed the ability to make highly accurate predictions. Yet the ego and false pride of the Weather Bureau caused the life of hundreds of innocent people. The author has harshly condemned this situation and has marked it as one of the primary causes behind the Galveston Hurricane.
The fated day was September 8, 1900. There had been prior warnings to the Weather Bureau since September 4, that there was a chance of a tropical storm, which had crossed Cuba. On the day of the storm, Cline himself observed a peculiar wind pattern as well as a strange behaviour in the deep sea swells. Here the author stated that his confidence in himself led him to ignore these tell tale signs.
Only a few hours later the town of Galveston was destroyed, with a death toll of nearly 6000 residents, Cline himself being a victim of a personal tragedy in this storm. According to Cline himself, he travelled along the beach to warn residents of the incoming storm. But the author argues that there is a lack of eyewitnesses to this, and hence Cline’s claim is highly debatable.
Erik Larsen has attacked mercilessly every human who was to blame for the loss of innocent lives, in his book. Even Cline, who himself lost his wife in the tragedy, has not been spared. The author condemns the meteorological department for their false confidence in themselves, and has not hesitated to put them down.
The book is enthralling and involves a high level of suspense, while describing how man’s arrogance bows down in front of nature. The author has brought to the forefront the story of a man’s fatal miscalculation leading to such a major disaster, aptly calling the book as Isaac’s Storm. The name of the book itself shows how much he blames Cline for this disaster.
Isaac’s Storm is a book which captures the attention of its readers from the very first page itself. It is a story which is revealed through the words of the eyewitnesses. The deadliest natural disaster of U.S. history has been aptly depicted through this book. However it is to be noted that Larsen used the accounts related to him by eyewitnesses, which makes the facts not free from hearsay. Moreover his blaming Cline for the entire tragedy is also harsher than it should be. It must be remembered that Cline himself is a victim of this disaster. The book also describes in detail Cline’s accounts of the storm, and one can realize that it was a mistake on his part, though caused by conceit.
All in all, Isaac’s storm is a must-read for everyone because of the highly compelling narrative of one of the deadliest storms in history.