Isaac’s Storm: The Drowning of Galveston, 8 September 1900

Erik Larson

Galveston, Texas, 1900. Reports of a storm in the Gulf of Mexico are relayed to Isaac Cline, chief observer of the new Weather Bureau. But storms stay out at sea and veer East to run parallel to the coast normally. This one didn’t …

Isaac Cline was confident of his ability to predict the weather: he had new technology at his disposal, ‘perfect science’, and, like America itself, he was sure that he was in control of his world, that the new century would be the American century, that the future was man’s to command. And the coastal city of Galveston was a prosperous, enthusiastic place – a jewel of progress and contentment, a model for the new century.

The storm blew up in Cuba. It was, in modern jargon, an extreme hurricane – and it did not circle around the Gulf of Mexico as storms routinely did. On 8 September 1900 it ploughed straight into Galveston. It was the meteorological equivalent of the Big One. It was to be the worst natural disaster ever to befall America to this day: between six and ten thousand people died, including Isaac Cline’s wife and unborn child. With them died Cline’s and America’s hubris: the storm had simply blown them away. Told with a novelist’s skill this is the true story of an awful and terrible natural catastrophe.

Reviews of Isaac’s Storm: The Drowning of Galveston, 8 September 1900