I am fascinated by weather. From the time I was a little girl, I loved all sorts of freakish events. In particular, thunder storms piqued my interest. For years, I attempted to capture the perfect lightening photo. It’s the holy grail of nature photography. One day…
One of my most cogniscent weather memories was Hurricane David. I grew up in a house with a tree filled backyard. None were great climbing trees, but they did provide ample shade to read under. There were a trio of birch, in the furthest corner of the garden that I loved to lay under and day dream. It was as if there were one root that diverged into three separate trunks-a beginning, a middle and an end-that intertwined with one another.
Hurricane David, with its blast of wind uprooted the tree trio. Seeing the bareness, it was evident that they were indeed three separate entities, but had been planted so close together they seemed as one. It was the first time I had witnessed the destructive side of Mother Nature and I mourned the loss of my space.
I saw first hand the damage wrought by a low level hurricane that everyone received ample warning for. It’s something we take for granted-a storm is coming and the weatherman hypes it up. Every storm is the storm of the century. They all have names, as if we want to make their acquaintances and have them over for tea or something. Then when warnings aren’t heeded, then those affected are seen on tv, questioning why.
It’s hard to imagine with multiple 24 hour tv channels, satellite imaging, weather specific radar and storm chasers that this is all relatively new. In 1900, a massive hurricane struck Galveston, TX. Prior to Katrina a century later, it was the most destructive hurricane in terms of property damage and loss of life.
The book Issac’s Storm chronicles the destruction and questions if mass casualties could have been prevented. It is a fascinating look at the beginnings of the National Weather Service, as well as some of the era’s politics. Apparent Cuba’s weather service were better at predicting hurricanes, but their reports were ignored. Could heeding their warnings prevented the loss of approximately 8000 people?
That is a question for alternative historians. This book focuses on both the science of hurricanes, as well as the humanity of Galveston’s chief meteorologist, Issac Cline. At the outset, he is incredulous at the thought a hurricane could destroy Galveston. Several years earlier, he penned an article that was in part responsible for a seawall not being constructed.
Unfortunately, he proved to be short sighted.
The author builds anticipation and suspense regarding the hurricane and its ultimate destruction. The format of the book, while focusing on Issac Cline, also puts a human face on the staggering number of lives lost. Most of the island is destroyed, as its economic prominence as a port. There is a happy ending however, with Galveston becoming a popular tourist destination.
I’m grateful that with my hurricane experience, it was just trees lost.