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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About the Author
Al Roker is cohost of NBC’s Today. He has received thirteen Emmy Awards, ten for his work on Today. He is the author of The Storm of the Century, an acclaimed history of the 1900 Galveston hurricane. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, ABC News and 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts, and has two daughters and a son.
Table of Contents
Part I They All Had Plans
1 Looking Forward 7
2 The Storm: Africa 22
3 A Reasonable Argument 30
4 Storm Watcher 54
5 The Storm: From Cuba to Texas 82
Part II Maelstrom
6 Galveston: Thursday, September 6 111
7 Friday: The Waves 120
8 Saturday Morning: Storm Tide 132
9 Saturday Afternoon: "Half the City Underwater" 147
10 The Night of Horrors 163
Part III We White City on the Beach
11 Telegraph Silence 197
12 The Pile 211
13 "I Can Begin Life Again, as I Entered It" 235
14 "In Pity's Name, in America's Name" 250
15 No Tongue Can Tell 273
A Note on Further Reading 300
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
This catastrophe storm was something I recall from history. In the present telling I was mesmerized, at one point I looked out my window expecting to see houses flying by. The writing is clean, firm, and remarkable. Flowing as though from one street to the next, I was there when the wall crashed down, I was on the roof, the planks. With not a word wasted Mr Roker gave voice to every segment of life, all of society without indulging in histrionics. Every character stood out and I cared about each one. The run-up details, information, the scene and the painting of the staggering effort to salvage are all part of my interest in history. Thank you Mr Roker. You have given me that to which I may gage my edits. Glenda Marie Rock III
The book started out a little slow, but once it picked up, it was hard to put down.
I didn't think this book could be any better than the Eric Larson treatment, but it was.
Why is this story being retold/rehashed? Eric Larson did a magnificent job of it in his book "Isaac's Storm"?
Great read told in true Al Roker style. I now understand high and low pressures.
I have read every book and articles I could find on this subject. Been to Galveston many times. Rehash of Eric Larsons excellent book. This falls FAR SHORT or Mr. Larson's Book. This is the only book I have read that says that the blacks were misused. TOTAL fabrication on Rokers part.