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Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

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4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  31,400 Ratings  ·  2,524 Reviews
National Bestseller

September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely d
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Audio CD, Abridged, 0 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Random House Audio (first published 1999)
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Katie I actually live on the seawall in Galveston. This book is great history. We've had more recent storms (like Ike in 2008) and we'll have storms again -…moreI actually live on the seawall in Galveston. This book is great history. We've had more recent storms (like Ike in 2008) and we'll have storms again - it's a part of life living on the gulf! (less)
John S Probably the same reason we always used to open all of our windows during a tornado warning...at the time it was thought that it would equalize the…moreProbably the same reason we always used to open all of our windows during a tornado warning...at the time it was thought that it would equalize the pressure and make it less likely your home would be destroyed. This is apparently not accurate.
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Community Reviews

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Nathan
Sep 17, 2007 Nathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who live inland.
Shelves: history, science
Ever want to read a nonfiction tragedy about a presumptive meteorologist? Exactly. Still, Isaac's Storm is an engaging cautionary tale, and one with a bit of relevance for America today. In fact the book is almost foreshadowing in that it was published just a couple of years before Hurricane Katrina. The writing in this book is not nearly as tuned as it is in The Devil in the White City, but Larson is still better at this than nine of ten nonfiction writers. Side note: when Katrina hit, several ...more
Matt
Sep 18, 2011 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Hurricane Irene made landfall last month, I’ll admit to feeling a tiny bit of storm envy. Ensconced in landlocked Nebraska, I could only watch on CNN and MSNBC as the winds slashed and the rain pelted and the seas rose. Friends on the east coast littered my Facebook feed with updates about closures, storm preparations, and hurricane parties. It was the last of these that really made me jealous. I love situational drinking, and a hurricane drunk sounded like a great way to wile away the wind ...more
Rachel
Sep 22, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Erik Larson delivers every time. He has the rare ability to take historical events and weave together yarns that in the end feel like you're reading a page-turning novel. In "Isaac's Storm" Larson takes us to a thriving seaside city in Texas circa 1900, to a time when people felt they could 'control' nature. He paints the story of how the infamous hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas, on September 8th of that year devastated not just a whole community but also destroyed people's faith in man's ab ...more
Chrissie
May 06, 2010 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SPOILER FREE!!!

This is a book focused on the science of weather. If that subject does not intersts you, do not rad this book. You must be interested in this science. It is a book of non-fiction; don't expect a book that will relate a harrowing tale of the hurricane that destroyed Galveston in September 1900. You will get that too, but first you must build up to the storm and understand the politics dictating the actions of the Weather Bureau. The scientific facts are mixed with engaging portraya
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Checkman
Popular history with just enough science thrown in to explain what happened without causing the reader to go cross-eyed. Fast moving and engrossing in the tradition of the best suspense/disaster fiction only the 1900 Galveston Hurricane was real. Somewhere between 6,000-8,0000 people lost their lives and the city of Galveston, Texas sustained a body blow that derailed it's ambitions of becoming one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the United States. It's now a moderate sized city that rel ...more
Jim
3.5 *

At the dawn of the twentieth century American's reveled in new discoveries, new technologies, mastery over everything. Isaac Cline, the chief meteorologist at the Galveston, Texas office of the U.S. Weather Bureau, was a man of science and believed no storm could do serious harm to the city of Galveston, a growing city destined for a great future. In September 1900 this cultural hubris proved deadly.

In the summer of 1900 odd things were happening. A heat wave gripped large parts of the Unit
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'Aussie Rick'
Jun 26, 2009 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
What a great story! This book just raced along full of facts and interesting detail about "a man, a time, and the deadliest hurricane in history." I must admit that when this book was first released in Australia I wasn't overly interested. It didn't sound like something that would interest me in the slightest.

How wrong can you be, after picking the book up for the third or fourth time and actually taking the time to see what the story was about I had to read it. The author, Erik Larson, present
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Jeanette
Jul 26, 2016 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book details the 1900 Galveston Hurricane disaster. But it does so through the life biography of Issac Cline. He was instrumental for weather prediction and some aspects of governmental weather authority connections.

Having had the Kindle read before, I finished this go around with the hardcover. I was a bit disappointed that it had some excellent charts and maps but absolutely no photographs.

Larson does these non-fiction accounts well. This was not my favorite, but it sure puts you exactly
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Kristen
Feb 25, 2012 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I became a fan of Erik Larson after reading Devil In The White City. As a bit of a history buff, I love the way he makes you feel as though you are really in whatever time period he is writing about. This book was especially interesting to me because I have been to Galveston and visited the hurricane museum. Since Erik Larson loves to give a lot of background details I had a hard time getting into the book (a problem I also had with Devil in the White City). But once the hurricane started to get ...more
Lobstergirl
Jan 15, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
It's probably more than a little shameful to admit it post-Katrina, but weather porn can be deeply satisfying. Hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, tsunamis, mudslides, styrofoam impaling oak trees, low pressure troughs, the Beaufort scale - don't you feel a little tingly already? When we combine weather porn with the romance of a good story, we get Sebastian Junger and The Perfect Storm: the perfect balance between good science and great storytelling, weaving characters, lives, rescue efforts, and ...more
Becky
I feel terrible when I say I like these sorts of books. Perhaps I should say I admire the book, the story that the author accomplished, and that I still feel heartbroken for the pain and suffering that the survivors of the disaster. They are all dead now, the hurricane killed 6,000 people more than a hundred years ago, but their suffering was real, families were blotted out entirely, people that would be great-grandchildren now, never existed because in disasters its just as much about luck as i ...more
Mike
Jan 07, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The first “intimation” of the true extent of the disaster, Benjamin recalled, “came when the body of a child floated into the station.”

Doesn't that send a chill down your spine? The true story of the 1900 Galveston hurricane is told in the dramatic, gripping style I am coming to love. Erik Larsen's Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History is superb. His description of the storm's progression and finally hitting Galveston is riveting. Having gone through a hurricane
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Ashley
Jul 10, 2013 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ashley by: Jeannette
It’s hard to rate a book 4 (“I really liked it”) stars when its contents are so disturbing. In this case, 4 stars means excellent research and a narrative that manages to be both totally gripping and devoid of sensationalism. It feels like this book was needed in order to finally do journalistic justice to the hurricane that leveled Galveston in September 1900—because goodness knows Isaac Cline’s own accounts, which increasingly exaggerated his heroism over time, did not. And the reports by his ...more
Pamela
“Galveston spun through space at nine hundred miles an hour. The trade winds blew. Great masses of air shifted without a sound. Somewhere, a butterfly opened its wings.”

If you find meteorology, history, natural-catastrophes, and human interest stories fascinating, “Isaac’s Storm” makes for captivating reading. I found it extremely insightful and captivating. From various weather-phenomena facts to the inception of the Weather Bureau to the 1900 hurricane that nearly wiped Galveston Texas off th
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Phyllis
Jan 30, 2008 Phyllis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a great historical account of the Galveston, Tx Hurricane of early 1900s. It was great.
Chris Gager
Jan 02, 2017 Chris Gager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this one from my non-fiction shelves the other day. I believe Mr. Larson is also the author of "Devil in the White City," which I read and enjoyed a couple of years ago. I'm drawn to the subject because I experienced a few nasty hurricanes as a child in Massachusetts. The worst was Carol in 1955. We were on vacation in Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard when she came through behind an incoming tide. THAT was quite a day ... Then, another one came in a few days later. Not as bad, though - Hazel ...more
Ms.pegasus
Feb 18, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history
Shelves: nonfiction, history
1900 was a time when passenger pigeons still darkened the sky, and bathing suits were made of mohair. The Spanish-American War had been waged the previous year. Galveston was a booming seaport riding high on a surge of (to the modern eye) precarious optimism. With these, and many more details, Larson immerses the reader in a zeitgeist ripe for natural catastrophe. There was a burgeoning faith in technology. The U.S. Weather Service, then part of the War Department, was like an adolescent, its ex ...more
Dianne
The death and destruction described by survivors of the 1900 hurricane over the island city of Galveston is terrifying. More people perished in Galveston than in any previous U. S. disaster. Wind gusts of 200 miles an hour generating pressure of thirty tons slammed against the wall of the houses. The hurricane had travelled 800 miles and its flow was focused directly at the city of Galveston. Galveston became Atlantis.
"Mr. Youens' house rose like a huge steamboat, was swept back and suddenly di
...more
Lena
Dec 18, 2016 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, xmas2016
Larson's strength is amassing facts on interesting topics and turning them into story time. I am always entertained, I am always frustrated. The man cannot paint with words. I'm always having to reread, then google, to find out what the hell he's talking about.

Two examples would be:
- the bathhouses suspended above the sea. I've never seen a bathhouse except in movies of ancient times in Rome or 1800s England; all in stone. I would have liked to know what these places in Galveston looked like, h
...more
Sarah
Oct 23, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a dramatic reminder that it wasn’t very long ago that we couldn’t come close to predicting the weather – and that many people didn’t know about an approaching dangerous hurricane until the roof blew off their house and they were forced to use it as a raft.

This book was written before Erik Larson’s two bigger hits: The Devil in the White City (which I still haven’t read, I know, but I hear it is awesome), and In the Garden of Beasts which I read and liked quite a bit. It certainly f
...more
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
3.33 Stars

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History is really a precautionary tale of hubris. Before Katrina, Andrew, and Frederic, was the worst and deadliest hurricane this nation has ever seen: the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. At least 6,000 people drowned or were lost (later estimates indicated the death tally actually was more toward 10,000). Among the casualties were members of Isaac Cline’s own immediate family. We can feel his horror and guilt as he is forced to
...more
Chris
May 31, 2011 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book but since I read it after Devil in the White City you can't help but compare the two. This book suffers some; one from being an earlier book and two while you really get a feel for the style and format he would use successfully in later novel, it isn't as strong as a book. You we see the basic Larsen characteristics such as how he draws you into a real life story as if it's a novel, and he also displays a tremendous ability to create true to life descriptions and characters b ...more
Correen

Larson provides a graphic and chilling view of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, filled with floating bodies and massive storm surges. He has written a coherent story of the Cline family from before the time Isaac moves to Galveston until his death in 1955. Arranged around the Cline story, Larson fills in information from many other families who happen to also live in Galveston. I felt the effect, while informative, was scattered. In Larson's books that I have read, he used a biographical method
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Rebecca Huston
At the turn of the twentieth century, one of the worst storms in recorded history bore down on Galveston, Texas, nearly wiping it off the face of the map. Weather forecasting was still a very inexact science, and the inhabitants hardly knew that it was coming, with just a few people in Cuba knowing what was going on. Except for one man, the Isaac of the title. How the storm was foretold and tracked, and how the people of Galveston survived is the main narrative of the book. I rather enjoyed it, ...more
Barbara
The Galveston hurricane at the end of the 1800's was devastating. The destruction and loss of life were unprecedented in the United States. At this time, hurricane prediction was an evolving art, and the National Weather Service was reluctant to announce them, even forbidding US forecasters to pass on Cuban hurricane predictions. This book is certain to be of interest to readers interested in meteorology and weather. My rating is due to the fact that it seemed imbalanced towards weather details ...more
Kathleen Holt
I liked this book, but didn't love it. I was fascinated by the Galveston / Houston history and riveted by the horrific details of the hurricane. However, I thought Larson tried too hard to make the story about Isaac Cline, about whom very little is really known. For a book of non-fiction, there was way too much conjecture about the thoughts and feelings of the characters and the relationships between them. For example, the author weaves this whole story line about why Isaac and his brother Josep ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I really liked The Devil in the White City, but this one is just tooooo boring to keep going. I couldn't even get 1/3 of the way through it. It would be interesting if he could stay focused on the events in Galveston, but he's all over the place with boring bureaucratic history and stuff from hundreds of years ago. A real snooze inducer.
~☆~Autumn♥♥☽
Some Texas history that I didn't know much about at all even tho every year I had to watch the Alamo (required in Texas). I can believe that most of this was covered up and its horrifying so no wonder. Read it if you can stand the terrible images.
Melinda
Strangely enough, I began reading "Isaac's Storm" and "Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and how it changed America" at the same time. Spurred no doubt by the rather feeble hurricane Irene that hit the east coast in August 2011, I got interested in reading about hurricanes and how they came to be named and categorized. Irene was predicted to be this huge mega-storm, but the Galveston Hurricane really WAS the huge megastorm. In fact this year is the 111th anniversary of that disast ...more
Kira
Jan 11, 2013 Kira rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the unfamiliar, Larson’s is a unique style and quality of historical writing. His books, though nonfiction, read like novels, and come equipped with dozens of pages documenting original source materials, everything from archived letters to old newspapers to almanacs of rural farming conditions. In an Erik Larson book, the sentence “The morning was warm as Sally fetched eggs from Bob’s Market,” probably has no fewer than three sources: the weather report for that day, a memoir or letter or au ...more
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Erik Larson, author of the international bestseller Isaac's Storm, was nominated for a National Book Award for The Devil in the White City, which also won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing. His latest book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, has been acquired for publication in 20 countries and optioned by Tom Hanks for a feature film. Erik is a for ...more
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“Time lost can never be recovered...and this should be written in flaming letters everywhere.” 6 likes
“This is the story of Isaac and his time in America, the last turning of the centuries, when the hubris of men led them to believe they could disregard even nature itself.” 5 likes
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