Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

Early September brought storm clouds and restless waves to the shores of Galveston, Texas but Isaac Cline, the resident meteorologist for the US Weather Bureau, ignored these warning signs. He felt sure that it was a simple tropical storm which would bring rain and wind, but not anything dangerous.

Unfortunately, he was very wrong.

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson outlines what happened on September 8, 1900 and why, from the growth of the massive hurricane to the devastating and long-lasting effects the storm had on Galveston and the surrounding area, as well as why the warning signs were ignored and dismissed.

The Galveston Hurricane completely destroyed the town and killed over 6000 people; many of those deaths could have been prevented if human arrogance and hubris had been set aside. The US Weather Service was in its infancy and struggling to be seen as relevant. The managers of the service, often political appointees, were terrified of an incorrect forecast that would make the department a laughing stock. They ignored messages from the more experienced meteorologists in Cuba (which the American weathermen thought were inferior) who warned of the possibility of a massive hurricane. By the time Isaac and the citizens of Galveston realized how bad it was, it was too late. The storm had laid waste to the town with no regard for status. Homes, businesses and hospitals were ripped from their foundations, train tracks ruined, ships in the harbor sunk and hundreds of people had been lost to the floods.

While this disaster took place more than a hundred years ago, the story continues to resonate with us as we live through more and more extremes of weather. Technology and weather forecasting have greatly improved, but in the end, nature always wins.

If you are taking part in the Online Reading Challenge this year, this book is a good choice for our October theme of climate change and extreme weather.

Online Reading Challenge – October

Welcome to the October edition of our Online Reading Challenge! This month we’ll be reading about climate change and extreme weather events.

We’ve experienced a lot of bad weather throughout history, and recently there seems to be more frequent weather events. No matter how “civilized” and technologically advanced we become, nature is going to win in the end. And how weather affects us and our communities and our planet makes for interesting and thoughtful reading.

Our main title this month is Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. Tired of living on a failing farm and suffering oppressive poverty, bored housewife Dellarobia is headed for a secluded mountain cabin to  initiate what she expects will be a self-destructive affair.  Instead, she walks into something on the mountainside she cannot explain or understand: a forested valley filled with a lake of silent red fire that appears to her a miracle. In reality, the forest is ablaze with millions of butterflies. Their usual migratory route has been disrupted, and what looks to be a stunningly beautiful view is really an ominous sign, for the Appalachian winter could prove to be the demise of the species. Her discovery of this phenomenon ignites a media and religious firestorm that changes her life forever.

Also available as a playaway audio book and as an ebook.

Alternate titles include:

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson. 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 by a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over 6,000 people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This epic story of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. 

Also available as an ebook.

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin. Draws on oral histories of the Great Plains blizzard of 1888 to depict the experiences of two teachers, a servant, and a reporter who risk everything to protect the children of immigrant homesteaders.

Also available as an ebook, a book-on-CD and large print.

Look for these titles and many more on displays at each of our locations!

Flood Footage

Want an idea of how bad floods can get in this area? Take a look at some of these dvds and videos….

Fighting the Floods WQAD’s coverage of the June 2008 floods has footage of the floods in Iowa and Illinois, including Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Illinois Valley, Historic Flood of 2008 footage of the September 16th flood along the Illinois River.

’93 Flood This video was aired live during the flood and aftermath; it contains aerial footage of the flooded Mississippi River.

Fatal Flood A 1927 Mississippi River flood killed more than a thousand people and destroyed the homes of millions from Cairo, Illinois on south to New Orleans. This a PBS American Experience program – which are uniformly excellent.