My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bookshelves: mother-nature-will-kill-you, non-fiction, history, science, americana
I love how Erik Larson’s non-fiction books read like novels. I stayed up too late on a school night finishing this and I’m not sorry.
This is the story of what remains the biggest natural disaster on U.S. soil (in loss of life terms*), the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas with virtually no warning. And self-aggrandizing politicians played their ugly part, with the U.S. Weather Bureau’s bigoted and competitive refusal to recognize Cuba’s superior ability to predict dangerous storms; had Cuba been allowed to telegraph its own data over American wires, thousands of lives might have been saved.
I also learned that you can, if conditions are right, draw rain by lighting a fire. Who knew? This is commonly mislabeled pyrocumulus, which is the kind of cloud formed if there is sufficient moisture in the fire-heated air through the process properly called flammagenitus.
Lots of info about weather patterns, including understandable explanations of the Coriolis effect, trade winds, and the westerlies; how hurricanes form and travel; and some interesting bits of the history of meteorology. Lots of recounts of personal stories: horrific, inspiring, grisly. It’s unputdownable.
*That may have been matched or exceeded by the death toll in Puerto Rico from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, possibly as high as 8500, although most of Maria’s victims died later from issues stemming from the inexcusably shitty aid provided by the U.S. government. As of two months ago, thousands of Puerto Ricans (who are bona fide American citizens) were still without power.
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