Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow. 2015.
Rating: Very good.
Previous to this book I’ve read, Galveston: A History of the Island by Gary Cartright, and Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson.
Gary Cartright died in 2017. His book Galveston: A History of the Island is remarkable in its research and history of Galveston itself. The 1900 hurricane is included, but this book is so much more. His book is one of several I’ve read on Texas history.
Erik Larson is known for other books of history. The following link is from Goodreads: Erik Larson. I recommend his book as a go to history book on the Galveston hurricane of 1900.
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.
I love the final chapter on what happened to the survivors. The rest of their lives are given in brief.