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The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America's Deadliest Natural Disaster: The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900

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In this gripping narrative history, Al Roker from NBC’s Today and the Weather Channel vividly examines the deadliest natural disaster in American history—a haunting and inspiring tale of tragedy, heroism, and resilience that is full of lessons for today’s new age of extreme weather. On the afternoon of September 8, 1900, two-hundred-mile-per-hour winds and fifteen-foot wave In this gripping narrative history, Al Roker from NBC’s Today and the Weather Channel vividly examines the deadliest natural disaster in American history—a haunting and inspiring tale of tragedy, heroism, and resilience that is full of lessons for today’s new age of extreme weather. On the afternoon of September 8, 1900, two-hundred-mile-per-hour winds and fifteen-foot waves slammed into Galveston, the booming port city on Texas’s Gulf Coast. By dawn the next day, the city that hours earlier had stood as a symbol of America’s growth and expansion was now gone. Shattered, grief-stricken survivors emerged to witness a level of destruction never before seen: Eight thousand corpses littered the streets and were buried under the massive wreckage. Rushing water had lifted buildings from their foundations, smashing them into pieces, while wind gusts had upended steel girders and trestles, driving them through house walls and into sidewalks. No race or class was spared its wrath. In less than twenty-four hours, a single storm had destroyed a major American metropolis—and awakened a nation to the terrifying power of nature. Blending an unforgettable cast of characters, accessible weather science, and deep historical research into a sweeping and dramatic narrative, The Storm of the Century brings this legendary hurricane and its aftermath into fresh focus. No other natural disaster has ever matched the havoc caused by the awesome mix of winds, rain, and flooding that devastated Galveston and shocked a young, optimistic nation on the cusp of modernity. Exploring the impact of the tragedy on a rising country’s confidence—the trauma of the loss and the determination of the response—Al Roker illuminates the United States’s character at the dawn of the “American Century,” while also underlining the fact that no matter how mighty they may become, all nations must respect the ferocious potential of our natural environment.


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In this gripping narrative history, Al Roker from NBC’s Today and the Weather Channel vividly examines the deadliest natural disaster in American history—a haunting and inspiring tale of tragedy, heroism, and resilience that is full of lessons for today’s new age of extreme weather. On the afternoon of September 8, 1900, two-hundred-mile-per-hour winds and fifteen-foot wave In this gripping narrative history, Al Roker from NBC’s Today and the Weather Channel vividly examines the deadliest natural disaster in American history—a haunting and inspiring tale of tragedy, heroism, and resilience that is full of lessons for today’s new age of extreme weather. On the afternoon of September 8, 1900, two-hundred-mile-per-hour winds and fifteen-foot waves slammed into Galveston, the booming port city on Texas’s Gulf Coast. By dawn the next day, the city that hours earlier had stood as a symbol of America’s growth and expansion was now gone. Shattered, grief-stricken survivors emerged to witness a level of destruction never before seen: Eight thousand corpses littered the streets and were buried under the massive wreckage. Rushing water had lifted buildings from their foundations, smashing them into pieces, while wind gusts had upended steel girders and trestles, driving them through house walls and into sidewalks. No race or class was spared its wrath. In less than twenty-four hours, a single storm had destroyed a major American metropolis—and awakened a nation to the terrifying power of nature. Blending an unforgettable cast of characters, accessible weather science, and deep historical research into a sweeping and dramatic narrative, The Storm of the Century brings this legendary hurricane and its aftermath into fresh focus. No other natural disaster has ever matched the havoc caused by the awesome mix of winds, rain, and flooding that devastated Galveston and shocked a young, optimistic nation on the cusp of modernity. Exploring the impact of the tragedy on a rising country’s confidence—the trauma of the loss and the determination of the response—Al Roker illuminates the United States’s character at the dawn of the “American Century,” while also underlining the fact that no matter how mighty they may become, all nations must respect the ferocious potential of our natural environment.

30 review for The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America's Deadliest Natural Disaster: The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rade

    I found this book at my local thrift shop. It is an advanced reader's edition. I think the book will be available in Aug or so. I liked this book a lot. It started off by introducing Galveston, Texas and the people that lived there. We get an introduction to lives of about five or so families, all of them having a good life and looking forward to an even better life ahead of them as their town was moving into a 20th century territory. After this we get some background and also introduction to a I found this book at my local thrift shop. It is an advanced reader's edition. I think the book will be available in Aug or so. I liked this book a lot. It started off by introducing Galveston, Texas and the people that lived there. We get an introduction to lives of about five or so families, all of them having a good life and looking forward to an even better life ahead of them as their town was moving into a 20th century territory. After this we get some background and also introduction to a life of Isaac Cline, a man that was slowly working his way up as a respected meteorologist. After he gets to Texas and fixes up Galveston's diminished meteorologist reputation, he starts getting a good rep not only in Texas but also the entire country. His life was described as being very busy, not only predicting weather and reporting it to Washington, but also helping people, managing business, and even teaching Sunday school, the only day he had free. From this point on, Cline was closely monitoring the storm which was nonexistent as far as he could tell. It turned out that Cubans saw the storm heading towards Texas but due to US sanctions on them, Cubans were not allowed to forecast or send weather reports to US, especially not the ones containing words like "cyclone" or "hurricane" in fear of creating panic on US soil. Cline told city that they should not build any form of protection against tides during rain as the weather will never reach a status of a big storm or hurricane. This will turn out to be a bad decision that he would regret. When the storm hit, the residents were at first hopeful it would pass. Some went on a beach and had a grand time while others went about their business. When it started flooding the town, people simply moved to a higher ground, a place that has so far protected them from all of the storms they encountered. Unfortunately that was not true this time as the storm got more and more powerful, making the water rise and even carry off houses with people still inside them. The author focused a lot on the lives of the five families I mentioned but he also went into (in good detail) the destruction of other homes and the people who ran for cover. In the end it was estimated that about 10,000 people perished that day. Most were burned as the smell of decomposition filled the streets. Among them were men, women, children, and even small babies. The scene after the storm when the waters receded and the corpses were everywhere was hard to read. Some people were even trapped under their destroyed houses but due to the sheer size of the destruction, the survivors could not rescue the people trapped and they were left to die. A lot of the people moved away when their homes were destroyed and a lot stayed and started to rebuild. AGAIN, I wish people who write these kinds of books had some visual aids, a picture, a graph, a drawing, something that could make the reading more pleasurable. I was getting tired of reading this book as if it was a textbook. Overall a good book. Since my book was proof copy, it had some errors. Quite a few sentences were awkwardly phrased or were missing words in them. Still, a good read. I also recommend Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History if you would like to read more on the storm of 1900 that proved how terrible nature can be.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    I really liked this book by Al Roker on the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. While he put the basic history in the book, he made sure you understood how young meteorology was at the time and the difficulty of getting people to understand the predicting of various types of dangerous weather. I also like how he went into the politics of why we were ignoring the information out of Cuba about the coming storm, and what the higher ups were doing to sabotage the information in Galveston. There was this wh I really liked this book by Al Roker on the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. While he put the basic history in the book, he made sure you understood how young meteorology was at the time and the difficulty of getting people to understand the predicting of various types of dangerous weather. I also like how he went into the politics of why we were ignoring the information out of Cuba about the coming storm, and what the higher ups were doing to sabotage the information in Galveston. There was this whole chain of command that tied Isaac Cline's hands when it came to getting the information to the people of Galveston. For me, it was good to get this information and point of view added to the historical record. I really recommend the book if you're interested in natural disasters. *Reread 2017* I listened to the audiobook this time and hearing the descriptions of the aftermath made it much more real for me. Also since I have now been to Galveston and the surrounding areas I knew where many of the places mentioned are/were now so that helped as well. Re-read 2019 Such a sad story, but reading how weather forecasting started in the United States is extremely interesting.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan Albert

    This is the hurricane that serves as the central story in Widow's Tears, China Bayles' 21st mystery. I have Eric Larson's masterful account of this hurricane (Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History). I'm curious to see how NBC weather forecaster Al Roker handles it. This is the hurricane that serves as the central story in Widow's Tears, China Bayles' 21st mystery. I have Eric Larson's masterful account of this hurricane (Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History). I'm curious to see how NBC weather forecaster Al Roker handles it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Not a bad overview of the the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston--but Larson's Isaac's Storm is a better book. I suspect this might be better in print than audio, as reader consistently mispronounced the name of a hotel that appeared over and over and inexplicably increased the pace of the reading at some points, not ones corresponding to increased action. Certainly informative and well-researched. Roker approaches the disaster from a human side--how officials and ordinary citizens were af Not a bad overview of the the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston--but Larson's Isaac's Storm is a better book. I suspect this might be better in print than audio, as reader consistently mispronounced the name of a hotel that appeared over and over and inexplicably increased the pace of the reading at some points, not ones corresponding to increased action. Certainly informative and well-researched. Roker approaches the disaster from a human side--how officials and ordinary citizens were affected and what happened to them afterwards--but he also gives an excellent overview of the history of the area. In his research he also spotlights minorities and race relations at the time A sobering account. The meteorological history is particularly interesting. US officials refused to believe that Cuban meteorologists had the ability to predict these storms before US and refused to believe them--or let their reports reach the states.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris Mclaughlin

    Not as well written as Isaac's Storm, but the author's knowledge of meteorology was interesting. Not as well written as Isaac's Storm, but the author's knowledge of meteorology was interesting.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    *************************** Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History 4 stars by Erik Larson *************************** Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History 4 stars by Erik Larson

  7. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    What has been the best reading I've done during this pandemic? Oddly, reading about other disasters. This is the story of the 1900 storm in Galveston told from the point of view of a meteorologist. I now feel like I understand things like barometric pressure and humidity and their connection with hurricanes much better. I will always love Isaac's Storm as the best book about the 1900 Storm, but this one will be added to the list. #2020ReadNonFic What has been the best reading I've done during this pandemic? Oddly, reading about other disasters. This is the story of the 1900 storm in Galveston told from the point of view of a meteorologist. I now feel like I understand things like barometric pressure and humidity and their connection with hurricanes much better. I will always love Isaac's Storm as the best book about the 1900 Storm, but this one will be added to the list. #2020ReadNonFic

  8. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    First sentence: A man pinned under the water struggles to free himself. Fifteen feet below the water's surface and the air he needs so badly, his thrashing body begins to weaken. Premise/plot: The Storm of the Century is a nonfiction book about the hurricane of 1900 that devastated Galveston, Texas. The prologue, "Underwater,"throws you into the action and introduces readers to one of the main characters, Isaac Cline, one of the best weatherman in America. Part One, "They All Had Plans" consists of First sentence: A man pinned under the water struggles to free himself. Fifteen feet below the water's surface and the air he needs so badly, his thrashing body begins to weaken. Premise/plot: The Storm of the Century is a nonfiction book about the hurricane of 1900 that devastated Galveston, Texas. The prologue, "Underwater,"throws you into the action and introduces readers to one of the main characters, Isaac Cline, one of the best weatherman in America. Part One, "They All Had Plans" consists of five chapters. Readers get the opportunity to learn about meteorology--the history and science of it as well as the leading men in the field; some basic Texas history--an overview; the history of Galveston, Texas--the island, the people, the geography, the businesses, the culture and society; hurricanes in general; AND this specific hurricane--its start in Africa, the path it followed, the mentions of it by ship captains and meteorologists, the super-complicated relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. This part introduces readers to the men, women, and children whose stories we will be following closely throughout the book. Did you know that local weathermen weren't allowed to issue warnings about local weather? All local forecasts came from the national weather service in Washington, D.C. Did you know that Cuba had some of the best meteorologists in the world at this time? There were men in Cuba that made it their life's work to study--to know--all about tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes. The goal. of course, being to be able to better predict or forecast them. Furthermore, did you know that the head of the U.S. weather bureau, Willis Moore, did not credit Cuba's meteorologists. It wasn't that Cuba had a history of poor forecasts--inaccurate forecasts--Moore just didn't believe that hurricanes could be predicted or forecast. Long story short, Cuban meteorologists were not allowed--were forbidden--from sending telegraphs about the weather to any weather station in the United States--to any meteorologist--except Washington, D.C. And since Moore didn't like, didn't trust, didn't credit Cuba's reports, he could choose to ignore them or respin the information as he saw fit. Cuban meteorologists knew that Galveston, Texas was in for a monstrous, devastating, life-threatening storm, but could do nothing to warn Texas. They could--they did--warn Washington, D.C. Moore knew there was a storm but he predicted it would turn course and head for Florida. Who got issued the storm warnings? Florida and the East Coast. It wasn't until that predicted storm never arrived that people started questioning--maybe the storm went somewhere else?! To his credit, Isaac Cline DID disobey protocol and issue local warnings about the impending storm--but it wasn't much notice--just half a day. If things had gone differently, the island could have--would have--had several days notice to prepare, to evacuate, to choose to act. Granted that would not have been enough time to build a sea wall--something the city desperately needed but naively didn't want to have to need. But the island could have been evacuated. Those that stayed--and probably there would have been people who chose to stay--would have been there by choice not lack of choice. Part Two, "Maelstrom" consists of five chapters. This part chronicles life in Galveston from Thursday, September 6, 1900 to Saturday, September 8, 1900. Here readers spend time with the people first introduced in part one. Notably Isaac Cline and his brother Joseph--both weathermen. But also other men, women, and even children. What was it like to experience the storm's approach and the storm itself? What was happening on the island? Where were the people going? How were they handling it? What were they doing? These chapters are incredibly intense and dramatic. We've got almost hour-by-hour chronicling from multiple perspectives. Part Three, "The White City on the Beach" consists of five chapters. This part chronicles life after the storm: those first few days, weeks, months, etc. It focuses on the survivors. How the island residents came together immediately to handle the devastation. It focuses on those coming from the outside to help: from the state of Texas, from the national government, volunteers from all over the United States. It tells of the newspaper journalist, Winifred Blake, and also of Clara Barton and the Red Cross organization. What did Galveston look like now? How bad were the losses? How many people died? Was anything left at all? What were they going to do about the dead? about preventing illness? about treating the injured? How were they going to clean up the wreckage, the carnage? How were they to go about rebuilding the community? What changes would need to be made on the island? This chapter was perhaps slightly less intense but perhaps slightly more graphic. The sights--the smells--horrific and traumatic to all who witnessed it. The rebuilding effort gets a little attention--that process was interesting. The narrative is still focused on the personal. My thoughts: I really found this a captivating, fascinating, compelling read. It was intense; it was scary. It was packed with facts I didn't know or perhaps hadn't considered. I felt like I learned a lot by reading it. For that reason this one is easy to recommend. In 1900, it was the poor who lived on the beaches, near the beaches. The wealthier you were--the more status you had--the further away you lived from the beach itself. And Galveston, in 1900, was a place with many millionaires. But whether you were rich or poor, white or black--the storm was coming and would hit every community equally hard. Being rich didn't mean you were safer or more secure. The wind, the waves, the floodwater, the wreckage--devastated everything and would ultimate change everything.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    2.5 stars rounded up. This was quite disappointing. Having read Erik Larson's book, Isaac's Storm, I knew the story about the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston, TX. I was curious about Al Roker's take on the storm, given that he is a meteorologist. He does add some interesting information in terms of the meteorological aspects of the story (I think I now finally understand the difference between a high pressure system and a low pressure system!) and he does delve into the racial aspects o 2.5 stars rounded up. This was quite disappointing. Having read Erik Larson's book, Isaac's Storm, I knew the story about the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston, TX. I was curious about Al Roker's take on the storm, given that he is a meteorologist. He does add some interesting information in terms of the meteorological aspects of the story (I think I now finally understand the difference between a high pressure system and a low pressure system!) and he does delve into the racial aspects of the city and they affected the recovery. He goes into more detail about the recovery and rebuilding of Galveston. The book had some good photos, but it desperately need a good map of Galveston showing the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay. That said, the writing is pretty awful. There is a lot of repetition, a lot of foreshadowing which after a while gets annoying, and he clearly doesn't understand "show, don't tell". I seldom felt like I was experiencing the hurricane, or the heat and humidity in Galveston like I did in Larson's book. In Roker's book, I was being told about it. Roker has a folksy, approachable personality and he tries to project this in his writing. This may work in his other books, which I haven't read, but not here. His style is way too casual at times for such a serious subject. Larson is clearly the better writer, and if you have to choose between the two books, pick Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larson. Sorry Al. I love ya, man, but your book just didn't work for me. We good?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janette Mcmahon

    Well written book of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. An easy read, that will keep the readers attention along with their emotions. Reminiscent of Isaac's Storm by Larsen Well written book of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. An easy read, that will keep the readers attention along with their emotions. Reminiscent of Isaac's Storm by Larsen

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I had no idea that the U.S. had ever lost so many people due to a single natural disaster. It's truly horrific that Galveston had suffered such losses all in one day and night. An entire city leveled, 10,000 people lost, rubble and bodies floating everywhere, all with no warning for the populace. Galveston used to be a city built on a sand bar of an island, completely flat across and at sea level from one end to the other. After The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900, Galveston decided to rebuild, but I had no idea that the U.S. had ever lost so many people due to a single natural disaster. It's truly horrific that Galveston had suffered such losses all in one day and night. An entire city leveled, 10,000 people lost, rubble and bodies floating everywhere, all with no warning for the populace. Galveston used to be a city built on a sand bar of an island, completely flat across and at sea level from one end to the other. After The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900, Galveston decided to rebuild, but this time they raised the level of the entire city by at least 8 feet and built a 17 foot sea wall to protect the city. Rather than building the sea wall off the coast to slow down and break up incoming waves, this sea wall was built on the island to hold back the storm surge and curved upwards and back to throw incoming waves back into the sea. The action in the book is riveting, and listening to this just as Hurricane Harvey is pounding Texas was truly frightening. The reason why I didn't give this book a higher rating is because it didn't feel polished and well-crafted. The writing style is made up of short, declarative sentences. The character stories felt a little awkward and forced, like they weren't the focus of the book. Which honestly, they weren't. This is a book about a storm, written by a meteorologist, who is more interested in the hurricane development than character development. Which is okay, because I was more interested in that too. It was a quick and enjoyable read for entertainment and historical value.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    Probably a 3.5. I have been visiting Galveston for several years now but, embarrassingly knew little of its history. I had no idea that the island had suffered the largest loss of life in a natural disaster ever in the U. S. (Estimates put it at 10,000.) Roker does a good job of pulling together historical and eye witness accounts of the events in September 1900 a category 4 hurricane roared in leaving death and destruction.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Terrill

    Interesting book with some facts I didn't know about the storm. It was at times a bit hard to follow since the author tended to jump around quite a bit. Interesting book with some facts I didn't know about the storm. It was at times a bit hard to follow since the author tended to jump around quite a bit.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Wasn't bad - an interesting read, but a little disjoint, going from aspect to aspect with some quickness. A pretty long denouement in the book, also - the storm is done about 2/3rds through the book. Wasn't bad - an interesting read, but a little disjoint, going from aspect to aspect with some quickness. A pretty long denouement in the book, also - the storm is done about 2/3rds through the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Starting with snapshots of a dozen inhabitants of Galveston, Texas as they go about their lives in the first steamy days of September, noted weather forecaster Al Roker sets the scene. A short explanation of how hurricanes form, as well as a short history of the National Weather Bureau from its start as part of the U.S. Signal Corps, its available instrumentation and the weather observer of Galveston at the time, Isaac Cline. Galveston, in order to lure Wall Street investors and money, took a fri Starting with snapshots of a dozen inhabitants of Galveston, Texas as they go about their lives in the first steamy days of September, noted weather forecaster Al Roker sets the scene. A short explanation of how hurricanes form, as well as a short history of the National Weather Bureau from its start as part of the U.S. Signal Corps, its available instrumentation and the weather observer of Galveston at the time, Isaac Cline. Galveston, in order to lure Wall Street investors and money, took a frivolous and defiant attitude toward Gulf Storms - that the sand bars and bay would protect the city. The best hurricane experts at the time were located in Cuba. Unfortunately, Willis Moore, the head of the National Weather Bureau disdained Cuban forecasters and did his best to destroy the system already set up across the Caribbean once the U.S. occupied Cuba after the Spanish American War. Even Western Union collaborated with the U.S. bureau and obstructed any forecast out of Cuba to the DC headquarters. If relayed - and if Moore believed the forecast and forwarded it to Galveston - the city would have had at least 24-36 hours to prepare. The story moves at a fast pace with the focus switching between Cline and the various other residents we were basically introduced to at the beginning. Starting as the waves churning up the sand and moving into the city edges and some people began to move to higher ground. But on Galveston island, the higher ground was only a dozen feet or so. As night falls, the storm surge continues to move through the streets and taking houses and their terrified inhabitants with it. The timeline of what was happening to whom basically all at the same time begins to get confusing since it flips around so much. Fortunately, he has chosen different enough people that the reader should be able to keep them straight. Even if it stays confused, the situation was chaotic and tumultous and in reality, totally realistic. And lasts for an eternity for the residents of Galveston. And the horror doesn't end. The city is completely cut off from the mainland. No telegraph lines to call for help. No bridges and no railroads. Ships had been tossed out of the bay like toys if they even survived the storm. Most buildings have been reduced to piles of lumber. Survivors attempt to find their family and friends amidst the destroyed city. How human remains were originally dumped in the ocean and eventually burned in massive pyres on the beach. Deaths are estimated between 6,000 - 12,000 and no one will ever know the actual numbers with many bodies swept out into the Gulf. The seawall constructed after the storm provided some protection but in turn, it also gave a false sense of invulnerability as later storms have proven. With the current state of weather forecasting, we are notified of approaching storms. Atmospheric movements are tremendously complicated so some forecasts may be wrong or not as bad as predicted. But can we even imagine the casualties from Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Harvey with basically no warning of their approach? The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 thankfully remains the deadliest natural disaster in American history and hopefully, it will maintain that notoriety. 2019-025

  16. 5 out of 5

    Charley Ilg

    Having read 'Isaac's Storm' before reading this novel, I wasn't sure if I was going to be reading the same exact account or if this was going to be one of those books that was written to say the other person's book was wrong. In the end, I got neither. Larson's 'Isaac's Storm' book was following Isaac Cline, and how his arrogance and ignorance combined together to cost thousands of people their lives. This book was more about the city of Galveston, and what life was like before and after the wors Having read 'Isaac's Storm' before reading this novel, I wasn't sure if I was going to be reading the same exact account or if this was going to be one of those books that was written to say the other person's book was wrong. In the end, I got neither. Larson's 'Isaac's Storm' book was following Isaac Cline, and how his arrogance and ignorance combined together to cost thousands of people their lives. This book was more about the city of Galveston, and what life was like before and after the worst natural disaster in history. It touched upon the different reasons as to why the city suffered its fate (i.e. the US Weather Bureau ceasing communication with Cuba, the claim that Galveston could not be hit by a hurricane, the idea that hurricanes couldn't possibly shift from Florida toward Texas, etc.), but for the most part it was an account of the city and its citizens. I enjoyed the different perspective, and it was quite an interesting ending that described the construction of a 3 mile long seawall and raising the city nearly 20 feet so that it could be above sea level (don't worry, the book is about the storm... so this isn't a spoiler). Regardless, reading this book made me want to read the other works that are focused on this event. It just seems like such an interesting topic to think that the understanding of weather and storms has evolved this much in the last 100 years. Not to mention the evolution of how humbling mother nature can truly be.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I read this back-to-back with Larson's Isaac's Storm. I was worried it would be repetitive, or not as well written, but was pleasantly surprised it wasn't. Not only was it not repetitive, given that the exact same event, with the same, but a few, characters but it was equally as gripping. Given that Al Roker is one of the best known meteorologists around, we get a lot more precise information on the science of, the equipment used at the time, prediction of hurricanes, and this particular hurrica I read this back-to-back with Larson's Isaac's Storm. I was worried it would be repetitive, or not as well written, but was pleasantly surprised it wasn't. Not only was it not repetitive, given that the exact same event, with the same, but a few, characters but it was equally as gripping. Given that Al Roker is one of the best known meteorologists around, we get a lot more precise information on the science of, the equipment used at the time, prediction of hurricanes, and this particular hurricane. Mr. Roker is able to do that in such a way that every reader can understand; no surprise, he's been doing that very thing throughout his 20+ year career. While most of the characters are the same, as one would expect in nonfiction books about the same event, he adds a few that I've not heard of, and this is the third book about the hurricane I've read. He also talks more about the unique culture of Galveston, not unlike New Orleans - not as surprising as you might think given it was built up by Jean Lafitte, the famous New Orleans pirate. Galveston of 1900 was a politically, ethically, and racially mixed society. It was pro-Union during the Civil War though many citizens fought for the Confederacy. Still, everyone got along well together. To give you an idea of it, Police Chief Edwin Ketchum was a former Union officer; the wealthiest family in town were the Gonzales's, of Mexican heritage; and the African American dock workers had a labor union which was formally recognized. Still, there was an amount of social separation that is not a surprise given the time. Roker then goes on to give you a very fascinating, in depth, understanding of the mechanics of a hurricane; what we know today and what they knew, or didn't know, in 1900, in a way that's both interesting and understandable. Handy information for me since I live in a state that borders the Gulf of Mexico and have experienced the effects of several hurricanes. I live about 350 miles from the coast, still Hurricane Laura was quite destructive here. The heroes and villains are the same, with a couple added. Roker, again, highlights the amazing work of the Cuban forecasters from the Belen Observatory and the dastardly way Moore and Dunwoody, the "snake", banned any communication from them to American forecasters of the US Weather Bureau. (Read my previous review of Larson's, Isaac's Storm for details) Had the Cline brothers, Isaac and Joseph, had that knowledge they would have been able to mount an evacuation and most of the 10,000 estimated deaths would not have occurred! As noted earlier Galveston prior to the hurricane enjoyed good race relations. Black, white, and Mexican families lived in the same neighborhoods. Jews, and Catholics were among the civic leaders. After the devastation Mayor Jones quickly formed the Central Relief Committee, a new governing body, and declared Martial Law to get order and stop the looting that had already started. Among the committee were the Catholic Priest, Father Kirwin, and Rabbi Henry Cohen. Where they made their mistake was in giving newly appointed Lloyd Fayling extraordinary powers as the head of the militia. Fayling was a complex character, not evil but decidedly flawed. Through sheer force of will, and of military background, he was able to recruit men for the militia, arm them, and make them take orders like a cohesive unit. However, he was also gentilly, but decidedly prejudiced against African Americans and Jews. He used the terms Negro and Hebrew, rather than the more demeaning terms usually used in the South at the time, according to Roker. His first order of business was to stop the looting, and that he did by posting armed men at intervals with orders to shoot to kill, no questions asked. The second was to organize gangs of men into what was called "dead gangs" to deal with the quickly decomposing bodies and body parts in the rubble. You can imagine the smell in the hot days that followed the disaster. For that work he pressed African American men, under guard. It was horrible, nightmarish work. Fayling wasn't totally without some compassion and set short 30 minute work sessions with free whiskey given the men during the breaks. In all that time he noted he never saw a workman drunk. Like I said Fayling was complex, and Roker portrays him as such. Eventually the US military got there and the Committee, worried about the power they'd given Fayling, relieved him of duty and Fayling quietly stood down. Also of note is the story of Annie, nee Smizer, and Ed McCullough, African Americans both from large local families. Newly married Annie and Ed's survival story is compelling. Through a series of cool headedness, luck, and some help they survived. They took shelter in several places during the storm only to have those places crumble around them. In the school in which they sheltered, they narrowly missed getting crushed by the brick wall that collapsed killing over a dozen people. Annie had a bad feeling about the wall stability and she and Ed moved minutes before the collapse. Finally forced out into the storm, and fighting the rising water, a white man saw their struggles from his window and called them into his home, which was one of the few left standing. They and all in the house survived. Annie lived to old age, surrounded by her family who recorded her and Ed's story and shared it. Finally, Roker tells the story of the Herculean task by the town leaders to build a 17 foot seawall and to literally raise the city up 17 feet, section by section, and sloping downward toward the bay to stop future flooding. It was an engineering marvel that took several years and the lifting of every building to backfill the space underneath, mostly at the town's expense! Only the wealthy contributed part of the cost for their houses. These are just the highlights. Roker does an amazing and exciting job and this is an excellent book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Angie Six

    I did not care for Al Roker's style of writing. It was confusing at times (especially when discussing meteorological topics) and chapters describing the time before and after the storm were not compelling. I found myself skimming quite often. The strength of the book lies in Part II of the book (The Maelstrom) which describes the events just before, during and after the storm. Whether his writing improves in this section or the story is just too compelling to be ruined, this is where the book sh I did not care for Al Roker's style of writing. It was confusing at times (especially when discussing meteorological topics) and chapters describing the time before and after the storm were not compelling. I found myself skimming quite often. The strength of the book lies in Part II of the book (The Maelstrom) which describes the events just before, during and after the storm. Whether his writing improves in this section or the story is just too compelling to be ruined, this is where the book shines. If the story of the Galveston storm interests you, I highly recommend "Isaac's Storm" by Erik Larson.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Elder

    This book was very interesting, and I learned a great deal from reading it. The section dealing with the various characters caught on Galveston Island during the hurricane was really quite exciting, especially for a non-fiction book. It was interesting to read how the arrogance of the U. S. Weather Service adversely affected the outcome, particularly its refusal to pay attention to the Cuban forecasters. The book made me wonder if a great catastrophe such as this hurricane occurred today in an a This book was very interesting, and I learned a great deal from reading it. The section dealing with the various characters caught on Galveston Island during the hurricane was really quite exciting, especially for a non-fiction book. It was interesting to read how the arrogance of the U. S. Weather Service adversely affected the outcome, particularly its refusal to pay attention to the Cuban forecasters. The book made me wonder if a great catastrophe such as this hurricane occurred today in an area similar to what Galveston Island was in 1900, how quickly would the destruction and death be national news on a large scale, but also how quickly, if at all, would the town be rebuilt?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Adams

    I love learning about historical events that I never knew much about. This really taught me a lot about the 1900 hurricane in Galveston. Much of it was meteorology-related as you would expect it to be since it is by Al Roker. There is also quite a bit of interesting history thrown in throughout the book and I love that it is somewhat novel like, following a group of (real) people, representative of the different groups living in Galveston.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tracy St Claire

    Al Roker wrote this really good book about the 1900 Galveston Cat 4 Hurricane that leveled Galveston and killed about 10,000 people. I wish it was longer and more of the politics were played out at the end, but Roker wrapped up this story very well in a book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Meredith VanOordt

    This book went about telling the story of the hurricane. It gave you a background for the political history of the area and an excellent course in meteorology, simplified. Not told for the horror - but for the reality

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nin

    Not as engaging as Isaac's Storm, but the meteorological info is interesting, particularly that dealing with the Cuban Jesuits. Not as engaging as Isaac's Storm, but the meteorological info is interesting, particularly that dealing with the Cuban Jesuits.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Daphne

    I really wanted to get into this. The premise is always so interesting, but something about the style of writing and method of telling the story just threw me off.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Pfeiffer

    Please stick with weather reporting. This book was tedious to read. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson was far better if you want to understand the Galveston hurricane. Please stick with weather reporting. This book was tedious to read. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson was far better if you want to understand the Galveston hurricane.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I finished Al Roker's "The Storm of the Cenury" last night and had to catch my breath! He kept my attention throughout the book, setting the various scenes, sharing scientific information that was understandable, giving a sense of many things: the geography of the island, the politics, especially at the local and state levels, race relations, weather reporting and the politics involved with that, and much more. I had previously read two other books about the Galveston hurricane, one being "Islan I finished Al Roker's "The Storm of the Cenury" last night and had to catch my breath! He kept my attention throughout the book, setting the various scenes, sharing scientific information that was understandable, giving a sense of many things: the geography of the island, the politics, especially at the local and state levels, race relations, weather reporting and the politics involved with that, and much more. I had previously read two other books about the Galveston hurricane, one being "Island in a Storm" by Asbury Sallenger. Both told the story of the storm as historical fiction but were very informative and helpful in getting a real sense of the storm and the inhabitants of Galveston at that time. (I plan to followup with the Joseph Cline book, "When the Heavens Frowned", as listed in Roker's bibliography.) I am fascinated by this storm and how so many things came to play in making this storm so deadly. I wish I had read Roker's book first - it gives, in slightly less than 200 pages, a real overview of all aspects of the storm based on actual reports and interviews, weather reports, the post-hurricane results, and history of the island and how his hurricane impacted the people and everything else in 24 hours or so. So many things have stayed with me after reading this book but one of the main things that will be helpful to me is Mr. Roker's explanation of weather terms and what they mean. He takes scientific weather concepts and breaks them down so that a non-science person has a much better handle on what is happening when weather reports are given. (Barometric pressure and its impact: Now I know!) Many thanks to the author for this! Overall, "The Storm of the Century" is a book that is a relatively easy, fast-paced read with multiple stories within a story that are easy to follow, explaning how politics and professional rivalry can impact the lives of unsuspecting people, and then giving a verbal picture of the total devastation and suffering of the residents of Galveston. This is a book I'll share with friends who enjoy a good story!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    A (mostly) very readable historical account of the disastrous hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. I found it especially compelling to read in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and in the wait for Hurricane Irma. The stories of survival were inspiring, and it was also very interesting to learn more about the formation of Cape Verde hurricanes and the state of weather forecasting in the late 19th century. The bit on the Jesuit observatory in Cuba was particularly fascinating. The viewpoint of a meteo A (mostly) very readable historical account of the disastrous hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. I found it especially compelling to read in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and in the wait for Hurricane Irma. The stories of survival were inspiring, and it was also very interesting to learn more about the formation of Cape Verde hurricanes and the state of weather forecasting in the late 19th century. The bit on the Jesuit observatory in Cuba was particularly fascinating. The viewpoint of a meteorologist gave this book a great boost. The disappointment I had in this book is simply because Al Roker is not a trained and/or seasoned writer. To borrow a term from a colleague, the language felt very "folksy" to me, and often I felt he used certain unnecessary vernacular phrases simply to "fill up the page" (i.e. "He was nothing if not resourceful.") Basically, he did what all my English teachers and college professors told me never to do. I got tired of reading about Galveston's "can-do attitude," which may have existed, but it seemed a very silly term for a historical narrative. Also, the long and arduous section about Galveston's history could have been condensed, or even removed, as it did not offer much relevance. And above all, it annoyed me to learn that Al Roker hired someone to do all of the research for this book, which to me is kind of cheating. At least credit the guy with a spot in the byline! If anything, this book has inspired me to read Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm to go more in depth into this catastrophic event (and to read something by a trained writer and historian).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elena Smith

    This book was so much more than I expected. I know of Al Roker as a TV personality/ weather caster and was not aware that he’d written books – actually, several of them. This book is about the Galveston hurricane/ flood of 1900, in which the small Texas town was destroyed and many people lost their lives, their homes, and all they owned. I enjoyed Roker’s deep research into the lives of specific individuals and families. His attention to detail really kept me in the story. In addition, I liked t This book was so much more than I expected. I know of Al Roker as a TV personality/ weather caster and was not aware that he’d written books – actually, several of them. This book is about the Galveston hurricane/ flood of 1900, in which the small Texas town was destroyed and many people lost their lives, their homes, and all they owned. I enjoyed Roker’s deep research into the lives of specific individuals and families. His attention to detail really kept me in the story. In addition, I liked the fact that he spent quite a bit of time explaining the history of weather forecasting and other industrial-age developments (and lack thereof). He also gave interesting background about the demographic make-up of this Texas town, including the fact that prior to the Civil War, the town had both free and enslaved African Americans. In his telling, he also mentions race, both in demographic terms and descriptive terms. As a Caucasian, I am accustomed to assuming that every person described is white unless otherwise stated. As an African-American writer, Roker took the opposite tack – all races were mentioned except black. I thought this was an effective way to do it, and appreciated seeing things from a different point of view. My overall opinion of the content of this book is that it would make excellent supplementary reading for junior high and high school students. The subject matter was realistic without including the extra detail that would cause nightmares.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jock Mcclees

    I had heard of this storm but hadn't realized it was the worst natural disaster in US history. Ten thousand or more people died. They never could get an accurate count. Basically, the entire barrier island that Galveston was on was under water during the hurricane and getting pounded by the wind and the waves. Roker wove in the state of meteorology at the time and the people involved as well as following the lives of various people in Galveston and following them before the storm and then through I had heard of this storm but hadn't realized it was the worst natural disaster in US history. Ten thousand or more people died. They never could get an accurate count. Basically, the entire barrier island that Galveston was on was under water during the hurricane and getting pounded by the wind and the waves. Roker wove in the state of meteorology at the time and the people involved as well as following the lives of various people in Galveston and following them before the storm and then through the storm and the aftermath. It helped to get an understanding of the incredible level of terror and devastation wrought by the storm. It was also interesting to find out that the hubris of a few bureaucrats helped cause the death of so many people. The head of the US Weather service and a few others had decided that Americans knew all and that the Cubans knew nothing about weather and were incompetent. In actuality, the Cubans had good reason to understand hurricanes because they were in the path of them so often. They had figured out ways to predict where they were heading and they predicted that the hurricane was heading in the general direction of Galveston. The US forecasters said it would head towards Florida and then fade out. They actively prevented the Cubans from relaying their forecast where it might have done some good.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    What stands out to me in Al Roker's book, The Storm of the Century is his focus on weather instruments and meteorology in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I expected this, since Roker is an American weather forecaster. In 1900, the people in Galveston had a false security. They believed living on an island would not take a direct hit by a hurricane. They believed the bay, "buffered" the storm for them. This is one example of the strange beliefs, misdirected trust, and the ignoring of warnings add What stands out to me in Al Roker's book, The Storm of the Century is his focus on weather instruments and meteorology in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I expected this, since Roker is an American weather forecaster. In 1900, the people in Galveston had a false security. They believed living on an island would not take a direct hit by a hurricane. They believed the bay, "buffered" the storm for them. This is one example of the strange beliefs, misdirected trust, and the ignoring of warnings addressed in the book. Two things I loved about this book: the personal lives of individual people, and the experiences of those who survived the storm. A few examples of accounts are Winifred Black, a female reporter who disguised herself as a man to gain entry to the island after the hurricane. Joseph and Isaac Cline. The brothers who were meteorologists living on Galveston Island. Roker remarks on Joseph Cline's story about warning people near the beach, and his earlier belief about Galveston not needing a seawall. A Dallas insurance man who needed to reach the island after the hurricane to see for himself the damage and losses, his name was Thomas Monagan. A young married black couple, Ed and Annie McCullough. They lived near the beach. Annie loved her prized rose bushes. After the storm, a white couple opened up their home to them. This was a rare hospitality in a segregated era. The harrowing experiences of the people who survived. Several people remarked that they were sent out to sea by the current, but then brought back to land by the current. I cannot imagine being driven out to sea, wondering if this was it, and later being brought back to land in the dark and not knowing where they were. After the storm, the gruesome task of recovering bodies and how best to get rid of them. The first choice of getting rid of the bodies didn't work. A second method had to be implemented. A rough guess of how many people died. Between 6,000 and 12,000.

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