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On September 8th 1900 a massive hurricane slammed into Galveston and destroyed it.  The people of Galveston were completely unprepared, a storm of this magnitude had never been thought possible anywhere and especially not Galveston which was presumed to be uniquely protected from the most severe storms.  In fact the absolute opposite was true.

 

The book has twin themes, the storm itself and its devastating consequences, and the story of Isaac Cline, the Weather Bureau's chief in Galveston who prided himself on how well he knew his weather and probably wasn't quite so much of a hero during the storm as he later made himself out to be.

 

It's a fascinating read, Larsen lards his narrative with the stories of lots of individuals, some of whom survived, some didn't and the history of the rivalry's and downright misconceptions in the Weather Bureau - another reason that Galveston was so unprepared though to be fair it's hard to see how unless they had managed to evacuate the whole population of the town many miles inland they could have avoided loss of life on a huge scale.  The descriptions of being in Galveston after the hurricane struck are mesmerisingly awful, I stayed up until 2 am not able to leave off reading until the wind dropped, I've been in a couple of hurricanes myself and they were frightening enough, I cannot imagine what this one must have been like.

 

Thanks Binker for giving me the heads-up on this one!

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I'm so glad you enjoyed it.  I had a long review that must have gotten lost in the Great Disappearance.  I agree that the description of what happened to the island was riveting.  I just couldn't believe the amount of water that inundated the island and the desperate measures people took to try to survive. The loss of life was heartbreaking.  And the decision to ignore the Cuban warnings that "something" was approaching just makes everything worse. Although I think some of that was a failure of imagination.  Nowadays, when we see the storms as they form off of Africa and watch them make their progress forward, it's hard to believe that people were surprised by the storm.  But they were.  

 

I have a confession:  I've never been to Galveston.  It's a big tourist spot for Texans, but I'm a huge beach snob and can't imagine that I would like it.  My mother and son went there on an Intergenerational Elderhostel (their experiment to see if they could travel well together before going to Oxford the next summer), but I don't think the rest of us have gone.  Probably not going to remedy that, either.  

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