Isaac's Storm: The Drowning of Galveston

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9781857028423: Isaac's Storm: The Drowning of Galveston

Galveston, Texas, 8 September 1900. It's another fine day in the Gulf according to Isaac Cline, chief observer of the new US Weather Bureau, but one day later, 6-10,000 people were dead, wiped out by the biggest storm the coast of America had ever witnessed. 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 X-storm -- an extreme hurricane -- and it did not circle around the Gulf of Mexicao 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.

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Review:

Reading in his signature dispassionate style, narrator Edward Herrmann brings an eerie calm to this powerful chronicle of the deadliest storm ever to hit the United States--a huge and terribly destructive hurricane that struck land near Galveston, Texas in September of 1900. Author Erik Larson re-creates the events leading up to the disaster in astonishing detail, tracing the thoughts and actions of Isaac Cline, a scientist with America's burgeoning U.S. Weather Bureau. Cline's unwavering confidence--"In an age of scientific certainty one could not allow one's judgment to be clouded..."--blinds the meteorologist to the deadly onslaught about to be unleashed. Herrmann's calculated performance reflects the impending doom and dangers inherent to an unquestioned and absolute faith in science. (Running time: 5 hours, 3 cassettes) --George Laney

From the Inside Flap:

Read by the author
3 cassettes, approx. 5 hours

Now a New York Times bestseller, Isaac's Storm is the superb narrative of the extreme hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas, on a late summer day in 1900, leaving at least 8,000 people dead.  On that day, a wall of water surged across the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into the burgeoning city of Galveston.  The nameless hurricane remains the deadliest natural dissaster in American history, its final toll greater than the combined tolls of the Johnstown Flood and the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906-- yet the event has all but dissappeared from natural memory.

Isaac Cline, one of the first professional weathermen emplyed by the government, has gone on record as declaring that no storm could damage Galveston.  Such fears, he wrote, were "an absurd delusion."  By the time the hellish event was over, Cline would see whole portions of the city scraped clean of all structures and all life, and would himself endure an unbearable loss.

The other main character is the storm itself.  Issac's Storm tracks the hurrican from its birth as a small plume of warm air over Africa, through its journey across the ocean as it drinks in vast amounts of energy, to its arrival at the unsuspecting city.  The audiobook describes how the city, especially its children, welcomed the storm and the great deep-ocean swells that it cast upon their beach--until extraordinary things began to happen.

Isaac's Storm is based on our latest understanding of the physics and meteorology of hurricanes, on Cline's own formal reports and detailed personal account of the storm, as well as the recollections of scores of other witnesses.  It is an unforgettable and timely story of the conflict between human hubris and the last great uncontrollable force--a cautionary tale for the millennium.

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